Title: The Bedlam Stacks
Author: Natasha Pulley
Blurb (taken from Goodreads):
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.
While my usual reading preferences lean more towards YA, romance and dystopian fiction, I will occasionally pick up a classic, or a book that’s way outside my comfort zone. Sometimes I regret it bitterly, and sometimes, it’s a book I never want to let go of, and that slips into my favourite novels. The Bedlam Stacks is definitely the latter. I requested it after briefly reading over the summary on Netgalley; it had a nice cover and sounded interesting enough. I would have never known that this book would become one of my favourite books ever.
The first thing I need to mention is that this book contains a slower paced story. It’s not one that you will pick up and finish within 24 hours, and that’s quite okay with me. It’s a book that you enjoy over several days or weeks, one chapter at a time. Its ending will leave you mesmerized from the complex beauty you experienced through the pages, and you will finish this book completely satisfied with the time you spent reading it… a bit like reading lengthy masterpieces like The Lord of the Rings.
The Bedlam Stacks contains a magical, wonderful story, as the blurb predicts. The narrator is just unreliable enough to keep you guessing about what is really happening; some is even left to the reader’s imagination. Just when you begin to settle comfortably in your knowledge of the plot or of the characters, the author twists the story and you’re left scrambling to understand what happened and what you could have missed. There’s a bit of a Jules Verne feel during some chapters — a delightful mix of suspense and adventure with a twinge of the mysterious. Yes, I am ranking The Bedlam Stacks right up there with Journey to the Centre of the Earth, one of my favourite classics. Add just a touch of spooky supernatural, and you’ve got a good idea of what The Bedlam Stacks is about.
I’d like to thank Bloomsbury USA for the free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This title is due to be published early next month, so keep an eye out for it, and enjoy reading Merrick’s story. I cannot recommend this book enough!