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This issue’s cover illustration by Ralph Steadman is from Garibaldi’s Biscuits published this month by Andersen Press (978 1 84270 860 6, £10.99 hbk). Ralph Steadman is interviewed by Martin Salisbury. Thanks to Andersen Press for their help with this November cover.
Fletcher’s trilogy, which started with Stoneheart and then gave us Ironhand, now reaches completion with Silvertongue – and a very satisfying conclusion it is, not least in its closing paragraphs. Fans of the earlier volumes will need no reminding that their underlying assumption is that parallel to an everyday London there is a city where the statues have come to life, essentially separated into warring factions known as the ‘taints’ and the ‘spits’: the latter have been erected to commemorate real people, the former to depict imaginary, frightening creatures such as those represented as gargoyles. Into this colourful (and often violent) domain come our two young teenagers, George and Edie, who have two pressing problems to face. Both have difficulties to come to terms with in their relationships with their parents, dead or alive, and both have to contend with what ‘Dictionary’, one of the vivified statues, designates a ‘power with dark intent (which) has cried havoc and let slip the dogs of war’. (This ‘Dictionary’ Johnson, complete with his cat Hodge and his fondness for orotund, Latinate expression is one of the book’s most entertaining characters.)
Fletcher mingles these two strands of his novel with elegance and invention, managing to elevate it well above the routine ‘darkness’ versus ‘light’ motifs of so much children’s fantasy. The ‘purest malevolent gloom’ which we are told about in the opening pages as characterising this alternative snowbound London dominates the novel but is continuously cut through by notions of the hope endorsed by ‘Dictionary’: ‘…for the natural flight of the human mind is from hope to hope, and it is in making those great leaps that we most extend our humanity.’ Warmly recommended.