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The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews

I absolutely chose this book based on its cover: a multitude of writhing, scaly, emerald loops - evoking the eponymous mythological sea serpent - textured and daubed with gold foil, replete with a breathless-sounding “Bewitching” endorsement from another author.

The highly digestible, lyrical prose is a big selling point for this book. Author Rosie Andrews in turn embodies narrator, the reluctant young soldier Thomas Treadwater, and skilfully evokes the era in which he lives: England’s Civil War, 1643. We meet Thomas on his return home to a farm in Norfolk. His devout sister Esther has beseeched Thomas to help her deal with a new servant - “a harlot” - who she accuses of witchcraft and trying to make a play for their widowed father. But when a sceptical Thomas arrives home, the proverbial has already hit the fan, with his father ailing from a stroke and the servant in jail. As Thomas digs deeper, it transpires that trying to remain rational in an era of ducking stools and investigators employed by local authorities to be “witchfinders” is a tricky thing indeed - especially when the bodies start to pile up.

While The Leviathan is indeed as bewitching as promised, I hesitate to call it a thriller, because the action doesn’t really progress at a pace that leaves you hanging with your heart hammering. Rather, this historical drama unfolds like a prolonged intrigue: what IS that evil thing? Where did it come from? Who controls it? What’s it going to do next? And most importantly, how can it be stopped?

Reviewer: Stacey Anyan

Allen & Unwin