Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

If you want more intricate, literary fantasy, try these next…

Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake for an elaborate and bizarre gothic epic

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly for a dark fairy tale

The Magicians by Lev Grossman for a melancholy urban fantasy

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor for superb YA world building

(for rionybay)

LITERATURE MEME | 10 works of prose - (6) the gormenghast trilogy by mervyn peake

He is climbing the spiral staircase of the soul of Gormenghast, bound for some pinnacle of the itching fancy - some wild, invulnerable eyrie best known to himself; where he can watch the world spread out below him, and shake exultantly his clotted wings.

Marcus Sedgwick: Mervyn Peake’s gothic fantasy has never matched the success of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Maybe it’s just too good

This sums it up:

…For some people it is just too peculiar, but even those that may like it may never come across it simply because it defies classification and easy journalism. The usual term for it is “gothic fantasy”, and though that’s a useful enough shorthand, it does pigeonhole the work somewhat, which can be limiting, especially when it’s a pigeonhole with nothing else in it.

She likes to dream that she’s the queen and that when the rest are dead there’ll be no one who can order her to do anything. She said, dear, that she’d burn down the whole place, burn down Gormenghast when she was the ruler and she’d live on her own, and I said she was wicked, and she said that everyone was — everyone and everything except rivers, clouds, and some rabbits. She makes me frightened sometimes.
—  Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan

primeval-atom asked:

have you ever read the Gormenghast novels? if so what did you think of them?

(previously: x x x) oh, gormenghast. i have pressed it into the hands of so many friends i have raved about it drunk and sober i have written academic essays about it let me tell you about this book

how do i describe gormenghast—it’s a story about family and tradition and power and freedom and class and madness and darkness and beauty. it’s a gothic bildungsroman and a comedy of manners and a political chessgame and a tale of revolution. it’s about two fascinating anti-heroes: steerpike is corrupt and half-repulsive, treacherous and machiavellian and magnificent, with vicious ideas above his station; titus groan is dark and hungry and mercurial, clawing himself out of the choking pall of nobility and ritual and tradition. it’s about pleasure, because the prose is rich and decadent and fullblooded, and no other novel is so intensely visible, painting canvases of lush roiling gloom and characters in sharp mordant detail. you’re seduced, surrounded, then swallowed. 

and castle gormenghast is a character in its own right, a feral baroque labyrinth of stone, an infinite castle-city without centre, an ancient affront to reason, scarved in black ivy. it’s sublime and grotesque, sprawling and proliferate: dripping misshapes of stalactite tallow-wax and plaster cracked in cobwebs and sweltering infernal kitchens and cellars and catacombs and warping staircases and numberless towers and bastions and quadrangles. brooding in umbra, slumping and ruinous. ruled by obscure and stagnant law and tradition and ritual. time-gnawed, yet out of time. 

titus groan, the first book, is the best, but gormenghast, the second, is almost as brilliant. the third, titus alone, lacks something vital but has flashes of genius. the last, titus awakes, was salvaged and pieced together from fragments by peake’s wife four years ago, and doesn’t come near to the original trilogy, but it’s a poignant tribute to his creation; to him. 

as a whole, it’s powerfully weird and melodramatic and swollen with dread as ripe as thunder. it unfolds slowly and meanders through intricacies. it demands long and devoted attention. there’s nothing supernatural in it, but it will haunt you. it’s full of ruin and decay, but what you’ll remember is how much life there is in it: menacing and exuberant and tragic and comic and cruel and beautiful and demanding—howling—to be felt. 

The Gormenghast Trilogy
Mervyn Peake. 1946 - 1959.

3 vol., comprising Titus Groan, ink inscription to front pastedown, spine a little bumped, first state jacket without quotes, some soiling to lower panel, 1946; Gormenghast, spine a little bumped, jacket with some light foxing, 1950; Titus Alone, frontispiece by Peake, jacket with light foxing, 1959, first editions, occasional light foxing, original cloth, spotting to fore-edge, dust-jackets, spines a little browned, but otherwise a good set, 8vo.
"Withdrawn and ruinous it broods in umbra: the immemorial masonry: the towers, the tracks. Is all corroding? No. Through an avenue off spires a zephyr floats; a bird whistles; a freshet bears away from a choked river. Deep in a fist of stone a doll’s hand wriggles, warm rebellious on the frozen palm. A shadow shifts its length. A spider stirs…

And darkness winds between the characters.”

In dark alcoves I have lingered
Conscious of dead dynasties;
I have lingered in blue cellars
And in hollow trunks of trees.
Many a traveler through moonlight
Passing by a winding stair
Or a cold and crumbling archway
Has been shocked to see me there.

I have longed for thee, my Only,
Hark! the footsteps of the Groan!
Lingering is so very lonely
When one lingers all alone.

Will thou come with me, and linger?
And discourse with me of those
Secret things the mystic finger
Points to, but will not disclose?
When I’m all alone, my glory
Always fades, because I find
Being lonely drives the splendour
Of my vision from my mind.

Come, oh, come, my own! my Only!
Through the Gormenghast of Groan.
Lingering has become so lonely
As I linger all alone!

—  Mervyn Peake, from “Linger now with me, thou Beauty”
From Titus Groan