Jo Fletcher: Quercus. (Rotherweird, Bk. 1). Jun. 2019. 480p. ISBN 9781635061536. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781635061550. FANTASY
Four hundred years after a Tudor queen banished 12 gifted children to the town of Rotherweird, an unconventional charter still prohibits the study of the area’s history. But, of course, there are readers—and the inevitable newly arrived outsider—who dare to brave the Bluebeard’s chamber. This mashup of historical fiction and fantasy that alternates historical and contemporary story lines converges to a dramatic (if somewhat perplexing) precipice. Detailed descriptions of the anachronistic town and its oddball inhabitants dominate. The resulting overabundance of characters leave readers confused about who they should care about—or who is vital to the curious, inventive, and intricate plot with ominous overtones. An overexplained ending is unfulfilling but does set up the sequel.
VERDICT Some readers may find playwright Caldecott’s debut worth reading for originality and inventiveness, but others might find it difficult or baffling.

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