by Natasha Pulley
Read: May 10-16, 2017
Published: August 1, 2017 by Bloomsbury USA
Source: Galley from Publisher (TY Shae!!)
Category: Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Peru, Friendships
Book Description: In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall after sustaining an injury that almost cost him his leg and something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather’s pines explode, and his brother accuses him of madness.
When the India Office recruits Merrick for an expedition to fetch quinine—essential for the treatment of malaria—from deep within Peru, he knows it’s a terrible idea. Nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who’s made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is desperate to escape everything at home, so he sets off, against his better judgment, for a tiny mission colony on the edge of the Amazon where a salt line on the ground separates town from forest. Anyone who crosses is killed by something that watches from the trees, but somewhere beyond the salt are the quinine woods, and the way around is blocked.
Surrounded by local stories of lost time, cursed woods, and living rock, Merrick must separate truth from fairytale and find out what befell the last expeditions; why the villagers are forbidden to go into the forest; and what is happening to Raphael, the young priest who seems to have known Merrick’s grandfather, who visited Peru many decades before. The Bedlam Stacks is the story of a profound friendship that grows in a place that seems just this side of magical.
I had no idea what this tale would be when I started it, but from the cover and all the way through this is a stunning story. Sometimes I will start a book and know from the first page that it is going to be a favorite, but sometimes I don't realize a story's full impact until I'm closer to the end - or even after. This is the latter kind of book. The more I think about The Bedlam Stacks, the more I love it. This story has an incredible level of depth and charm, and these characters and their world have seeped completely into my bones.
The Bedlam Stacks follows Merrick Tremayne, a wounded former East India Company smuggler who's feeling pretty useless living with his brother on his family's crumbling English estate, where he occupies himself tending plants in a greenhouse. When Merrick is recruited to go to Peru for quinine cuttings - a plant the English need for the treatment of malaria - he's naturally hesitant, since he can barely walk anymore. But he agrees out of desperation for something new - and because his brother's started accusing him of madness. And thus begins Merrick's physical journey to South American, even while he's also embarking on an internal journey into his own personal history (Merrick's grandfather and father visited Peru in the past). As you can guess, Merrick does not expect what he finds there.
It's impossible to explain what this story is exactly. Set around 1860 in England and then Peru, The Bedlam Stacks is historical fantasy with incredible world building that starts off rather ordinary and turns into something completely different from that. I enjoyed discovering the magic and mystery of this world along with Merrick. But most of all it is the friendship that struck me. Watching a connection grow between two people who seemed destined for loneliness was more rewarding than I could have imagined.
Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone - Loose companion to The Watchmaker of Filigree Street.
Picture from my instagram: @loveisnotatriangle
With the galley being this gorgeous,
I can't fathom what the finished copy will look like!