Reviews: Gormenghast

Titus Alone

Show, Don't Tell is a piece of advice you hear thrown out a lot in literary circles. And it certainly has some merit as far advice goes. But it shouldn't be taken as a hard law and Peake really proves that with Titus Alone. This is story Telling after all and when he tells you something in this story you believe it. A stand out example includes the girl who had been through some kind of experience similar to a concentration camp. The narration tells you that she is broken. That her life is horrible and without any redeeming features. Hearing this stated so definitively by narration is much more scathing then describing her appearance or mannerisms (not that Peake shys away from doing such things too). The manner of his writing makes it so all of his words ring through. You feel the motion because he tells you want it is in some of the plainest and simplest, yet still powerful, terms.

Peake truly is a master of cultivating a sense of tone and atmosphere in his stories, in a way that can't easily be described. Somehow he manages to make a relatively normal city seem as alien and bizarre to the reader as it is to the protagonist who has never seen things like cars or elevators. I do think the last arc of the book could have done with a bit more work but overall this book holds some fantastic writing in its pages that I would suggest even to people who haven't read the first two (though the context would certainly help the reader to relate to Titus a lot more).

Like it's predecessors it's bursting to the brim with pure strangeness that sets it apart from nearly everything else on the market. And of the original trilogy it manages to be simultaneously the most grounded, but also the strangest of them all. Its easy to understand why its the black sheep of the series. It doesn't feature any of the major characters from the previous books aside from the protagonist, and the new characters brought in feel kind of murky and not as fully defined (though still pretty awesome. Muzzlehatch deserves to be much more popular than he is) but the strangeness of it is intentional and for that reason it works so well. For me, Gormenghast's greatest strength has been in how different it is from anything else (followed very closely by a handful of truly amazing characters). Titus Alone manages to show off some truly great writing by taking the uniqueness of Gormenghast and making it different even from itself.
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