By Author / Illustrator
Chicken House Ltd
Paperback / softback
A mesmerising Gothic mystery from Costa Award-shortlisted author Nicholas Bowling. To the horror of young gravedigger, Ned, bodysnatchers have been visiting his churchyard in the dead of night. Until now, he'd been daydreaming about another visitor - daughter of the manor, Obedience Wellrest. But sixteen-year-old Obedience has troubles of her own: her loving but overbearing father, and his wish to see her married to a rich man of science, Phineas Mordaunt. When Mordaunt starts to poke his nose into her family history - in particular, the ruinous research of late Uncle Herbert - Obedience enters into a dangerous game with Death, and Ned might be the only person who can save her...
A mesmerising tale of magic, death and science, wrapped up in a delicious Gothic mystery Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell meets Dangerous Remedy - for young adult readers From highly acclaimed Costa Award-shortlisted author, Nicholas Bowling. 'Nicholas Bowling is a thrilling writer' THE TELEGRAPH
15-year-old Ned works as a gravedigger alongside his grandfather, Pa, who is sexton of the parish. When graves are found to have been disturbed, Ned and Pa are worried that body snatchers may be at work, putting their jobs in jeopardy. Obedience Wellrest, known as Bede, lives with her father in the nearby dilapidated manor house. Fascinated by the research of her long-dead ancestor Herbert Wellrest, Bede longs to go to university and study science, but cannot do so because she is female. Her father, desperate to revive the family's fortunes, wants Bede to marry the scientist Phineus Mordaunt, but Bede will do anything to avoid the match. However, Mordaunt is also desperate to find out more about Herbert Wellrest's research, and when he starts to reveal his true colours, Bede goes to incredible lengths to try and escape his clutches. Helped by Ned, the two pool their resources to try and stop Mordaunt from continuing down his evil path.
I loved this novel! Dark, scary, and brilliantly atmospheric, with shades of Frankenstein, The Undying of Obedience Wellrest grabs the reader from the very first sentence - 'For my fifteenth birthday, my grandfather let me dig my own grave.' and carries them into a thrilling gothic adventure.
Ned is a charming boy; he has lived a life of isolation with Pa and has never left the village of Withy Bottom. Instantly attracted to the charismatic and beautiful Bede, he will do anything to protect and save her, even when he finds himself doubting her choices. I loved the fact that Ned has a pet fly, Mosca, who plays an important part in the story! Bede herself is beautifully written; feisty, witty, brilliantly clever and brave, she carries her own secrets and there is a dark side to her life that comes as a complete surprise to the reader.
The book is dual narrative, told from both Bede and Ned's point of view. The chapters are relatively short, which keeps the story moving satisfactorily. The action never flags; the story combines gothic horror with mystery, science and just a hint of romance. The author cleverly asks the reader to question how far scientists should go in their research, and also sensitively tackles the themes of death and loss.
There is much dark humour in the book, particularly in Bede's fiery exchanges with both her father and the horrible Mordaunt, and several clever (and unexpected) twists and turns. The action builds to a truly horrific climax. The conclusion to the book is satisfying and moving. This is a cleverly written and totally original novel which will be a perfect addition to any library or home bookshelf. Given the subject matter, and the scary themes, I would suggest it is more suitable to older teens; younger readers may find the concepts and themes too complex and disturbing. However, I have no hesitation in recommending it to readers aged thirteen and over.
Reviewed by Beverley Somerset, Retired School Librarian
Suggested Reading Age 14+