Saturday, November 27, 2021

Review: Bibliomancer by Frances Evelyn

Genre: Speculative fiction


The book is set in Oakham, principal town of Rutland (the smallest county), about 20 miles from Leicester, in the Midlands in Britain. It begins with a sensitively handled death, and consequent grief. Thereafter it settles on Emily’s volunteer work, reading to patients at a local hospice, and her best friend Lauren’s struggle with baby blues and losing her mum, who was also a sort-of mum to Emily. We watch the two young women gradually rally. When they do, they find their lives have quite changed. Of course. A threshold has been crossed. They are women now in a way neither was before. Thereafter other thresholds are crossed, experimentally and then more boldly. The book gets darker. The two women get more self-reliant. But is the darkness unstoppable now?


Frances Evelyn is a British author living now in Rutland. She spent 20 rewarding years as an English teacher, then several interesting years in management. 

In her ‘The Changeling Tree’ series (currently four books), Evelyn combines tangled time-lines, family saga, and Faerie. There is also what I believe is a novella called Sarah Ward and the Lyddington Djinn. Bibliomancer is a standalone book, and her most recent. 


This is a clever book. The tagline to the title is “time to choose your last book”. For people who love to read (and we are those people, right?) that is chilling. This is also a book which celebrates the power of books and reading. In this book – OK, I’m actually going to use these words in the same sentence – ‘contemporary British fantasy’ is going to appeal to the same people who enjoy Jane Austen and George Eliot. And no, this is not some sort of zombie mashup. So, what is going on?

The premise is new to me. A fresh plot does not, frankly, come along very often. Half a dozen a year, if that. This is one of those half dozen. So I am going to tread very carefully, so as not to drop any spoilers.

It conceals its freshness under a Red Riding Hood opening which skips along like women’s fiction, giving no hint of the wolf to come. Then it has a short flirtation with police procedural. Thereafter, the wolf lifts its lip to show its teeth and the story hurls itself towards a most satisfying climax in a quite unlooked-for direction.

The blurb on Kindle calls this book ‘contemporary British fantasy’, I’ve deemed it speculative fiction above. It could also quite legitimately strut its stuff as science fiction. Suffice it to say that there is plenty of weirdness, which is thought-provoking. If you enjoy being provoked in that way, I believe you will enjoy this book.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

There are a few typos and some odd stylistic decisions which occasionally disturb the reader.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: Judi Moore

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words

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