The Society of Blood by Mark Morris
The Society of Blood is a direct sequel to The Wolves of London. With that in mind it is highly likely that this review will contain something akin to spoilers if you haven’t read the first book in this series. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Transported through time to the dank streets of Victorian London, Alex Locke seeks to unravel the mysteries of the Obsidian Heart, the enigmatic object to which his fate is inextricably bound. When a string of grisly murders takes place across the capital, Alex follows a trail that will lead him through the opium dens of Limehouse into the dark and twisted world of the Society of Blood, and ever closer to unlocking the secret of the Heart.
I read the first part of The Obsidian Heart trilogy, The Wolves of London, last year on a whim. I knew nothing about it and picked it up solely based on the fantastically gothic cover. It was an absolutely brilliant book that left me wanting more. Now, the second part of the trilogy is upon us and the good news is that it’s just as good as its predecessor.
When we last left Alex Locke and Clover they were stranded in Victorian London. Book two picks up some time later. Both have slowly started to adapt to their new lives. The fore knowledge they share making living in the past slightly easier. That said, there are still issues. Clover is finding it especially challenging; 19th century attitudes to woman being something of an anathema to her.
Living as a gentleman in polite society should be a breeze after all the suffering he has endured, but Locke doesn’t have a second to let his guard down. He is constantly on the lookout. He knows the Wolves are out there somewhere, so whenever the inexplicable occurs, Locke is compelled to investigate.
All the while Locke continues the search for his kidnapped daughter. Ironically on his journey he has gained a new surrogate family. Clover has become his de-facto wife and partner. Locke has also become the guardian of a young girl he names Hope. The delicate bond that forms between the two is particularly well realised. The Wolves have performed horrible experiments on the poor mite and she is used to being treated like an animal. As Locke and his friends help her acclimatise to freedom, you can see a genuine tenderness develop.
Locke is getting more and more desperate as time ticks by. The following questions still remain, what do the Wolves of London want? Why are Locke and his family key to their plans? And who exactly are these new players in the game, the enigmatically named Society of Blood?
Morris does a grand job of blending together some complex time travel and multiverse theory. The more Locke uses the Obsidian Heart, the more he agonises over the consequences of each and every action he takes. I love that older versions of Locke pop up from time to time, excuse the pun, and give the current incarnation of our hero advice. The deeper Locke travels down the rabbit hole, the more complicated things become. I always worry a bit about time travel in novels, it strikes me that it is potentially quite easy for an author to get tangled up in knots when it comes to a labyrinthine and convoluted plot. No need to fret in this instance; Mark Morris manages to pull off the intricacies of time travel with aplomb.
The narrative is peppered with some gleefully horrific moments. The streets of Victorian London are a dangerous place. Violence and death round every corner. I’ve been thinking about it and I’ve to a startling conclusion. I believe Mr Morris delights in lulling his readers into a false sense of security. Just at the moment when you are completely relaxed and his writing has got you entirely in its thrall he throws in something epically nasty. I love it.
One word of advice, if you haven’t read The Wolves of London first I would strongly suggest you do. The Society of Blood is best appreciated as the second part of a much larger story. I strongly suspect I’ll appreciate even more once I have read book three. I have a few suspicions about where this tale is going and I am burning with curiosity to see if I am right or not.
On a side note, and in a weird bit of synchronicity, I’ve started playing Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate this week. It’s also set in London during the midst of the Industrial Revolution. The game and book complement one another rather nicely. Being surrounded by visuals of Victorian London certainly helps to set the scene when you are reading about it as well. Things have been properly Victorian round here lately. There is a danger I may start speaking with a faux Cockney accent.
The Society of Blood is published by Titan Books is available now. The Wraiths of War will follow next year. I genuinely can’t wait to discover how the final part of the trilogy is going to play out. I’d happily recommend this series to anyone and everyone, Mark Morris is writing up a hell of a storm.