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Summary

Welcome to Mordew - the first in a fantastic new trilogy from the Wellcome Book Prize-shortlisted writer Alex Pheby.

God lies defeated, his corpse hidden in the catacombs beneath Mordew. On the surface, the streets of this the sea-battered city are slick with the Living Mud and the half-formed, short-lived creatures it spawns - creatures that die and are swept down from the Merchant Quarter by the brooms of the workers and relentless rains, where they rot in the slums.

There, a young boy called Nathan Treeves lives with his parents, eking out a meagre existence by picking treasures from the Living Mud - until one day his mother, desperate and starving, sells him to the mysterious Master of Mordew.

The Master derives his power from feeding on the corpse of God. But Nathan, despite his fear and lowly station, has his own strength - and it is greater than the Master has ever known. Great enough to destroy everything the Master has built. If only Nathan can discover how to use it.

So it is that the Master begins to scheme against him - and Nathan has to fight his way through the betrayals, secrets and vendettas of the city where God was murdered and darkness reigns....

Experience this critically acclaimed masterpiece, perfect for fans of Philip Pullman and Ben Aaronovitch.

©2020 Alex Pheby (P)2021 W F Howes

Critic reviews

"Brilliant.... Extraordinary.... An extravagant and unnerving marvel." (The Guardian)

"A treat.... The world of Alex Pheby's fourth novel is dizzying...a beguiling splicing of Dickensian social satire and rackety steampunk fantasy. Written with combustible verve." (The Spectator)

"Weird and wonderful, bleak and beautiful...[Mordew] is an extraordinarily vivid piece of world-building." (The Sunday Express)

What listeners say about Mordew

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Great reading, an amazing range of voices

This is really great audio acting. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is, in my view, the pre-eminent voice actor of our times. He reads with care and accuracy, and is clear but also natural. And he's exceptionally good at characterisation through voice, always making it clear who is speaking. His command (and I mean *command*) of a range of accents is truly impressive and, unlike a lot of male actors, he is able to voice female characters realistically without it sounding like some kind of caricature (in this, he is as good as e.g. Timothy West).

Basically, I loved this performance, my favourite voice being that of Anaximander the dog, who sounds like a highly competent American bureaucrat. Holdbrook-Smith is, to my ear, flawless and highly recommended.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

OK but more YA than I expected

Excellent voice performance. The book was OK. I mostly felt that it lacked depth and nuance.

3 people found this helpful

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Game of Thrones meets Charles Dickens

A dark world where slumlords, manipulative parents and all out psychopaths compete for power in a city-state itself on the verge of it's own self-destruction.

3 people found this helpful

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great story, let down by audible chapter breaks

Great story, great narration. But Audible has split the whole story into only 3 chapters, making it impossible to navigate the book.

1 person found this helpful

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just yes.

Gothic, glorious and bloody brilliant. made even better by possibly the best male narrator ever.

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excellent narration

Sections, not in chapter form for forwarding. Just too much descriptive of place for me.

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Enthralling adventure in Mordew

Wonderfully narrated by Kobna, so many different, strong voices making the story easy to follow. Great story, based in the fantasy and mystical world of Mordew.

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Gott ist Tot & the Festivals of Atonement

Gothic fantasy and steampunk-flavoured juvenile delinquency in this acclaimed novel from Alex Pheby (the first in his proposed Cities of the Weft trilogy). One line pitch: it's Oliver Twist meets Gormenghast with Anakin Skywalker as the lead. Although not promoted as a YA novel, this feels solidly in that tradition. Set in the mystically-besieged cityport of Mordew, the story follows our 'chosen one' teenage hero, Nathan, on his journey from slum-dwelling child of a penitent ex-warlock to the upper echelons of the Master's keep and the magical lands beyond the sea. Pheby engages in some serious world-building with Mordew, drawing on numerous influences to set his scene, but doing so with a cohesion and conviction that makes the Protean living mud and vertiginous glass road feel of a piece with the sewers, warehouses and palaces of the decadent, diseased city.
However, if Pheby's scene-setting is excellent, his pacing lets him down. The first act of this enormous novel introduces various political intrigues and a Dickensian narrative arc that sees Nathan fall in with a gang of thieving street urchins whilst his father lies dying and his aristocratic mother is forced into prostitution. This all builds nicely and I wish it had been developed further but then the story switches track for the second act: Nathan's nascent magical abilities suddenly turn full-Jedi and the book transitions into arcane symbolism and dreamlike fantasy. Once the confused Nathan has fallen under the Master's dubious patronage the remainder of the novel plays out with ratcheting jeopardy, flipped expectations, passageway chases and plenty of exposition in readiness for the second instalment. Oh, and the corpse of God lies is in the catacombs beneath the castle, but more on that next time. In other words, this does not resolve itself in a particularly satisfactory manner. Still, there was much to enjoy here, and I will certainly check in with part two.
Of course, what this audiobook really has in its favour is Kobna Holdbrook-Smith on narration duties. Holdbrook-Smith still has all the good will in the world from his work on the Peter Grant books and he doesn't drop the ball here, giving an excellent performance up to his usual high standards (even in the scene with the elefanges, which no one is going to like).

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Best Audiobook....ever

Best Audiobook I have ever listened to
Voices for the characters
The narrator's voice is superb.

the book itself is absolutely brilliant

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Unrelenting despair

Sort of like Oliver Twist but none of the characters appear to have any agency. Stuff happens, lots of terrible stuff, much of it also impressively disgusting. Cool ideas, with the living mud and the glass road, but the plot doesn't really go anywhere you just wallow in the grim surreality. High points for me were the introduction of Anaximander the cyborg dog (finally some suspense, and proper mythical absurdity) who was then HARDLY EVEN IN IT (not a spoiler, just don't get your hopes up). Then it picked up a little once Dasheeny came on the scene in the action-packed final quarter, with moments of horror as revelations are made, but mostly the characters were so thinly manifested and powerless that I didn't care about anything that happened.

Excellent voices and narration overall. Loved Gam's creaking cockney in particular.

I will need to go back and re-read the Gormenghast trilogy, I can see why the comparison has been made but I remember its language and imagery being... expansive fantasy, filled with silly jokes (so many high quality puns/neologisms - Steerpike, Sepulchrave, Prunesquallor)