Book Review: Everyone’s favourite magical crime fighting booksellers are back in Garth Nix’s The Sinister Booksellers of Bath

  • Jess Gately
  • April 19, 2023
  • Comments Off on Book Review: Everyone’s favourite magical crime fighting booksellers are back in Garth Nix’s The Sinister Booksellers of Bath

Sinister Booksellers of Bath

The sequel to the best-selling The Left-Handed Booksellers of London is finally here, and Garth Nix certainly delivers. Return to the wild, dangerous but eccentric world of the magical crime-fighting bookseller St Jacques family in The Sinister Booksellers of Bath.

Demi-mortal Susan Arkshaw has been steadfastly avoiding all bookseller business since discovering her magical heritage. She wants nothing to do with the Old World; she just wants to be a normal human. Although this is making her relationship with Merlin St Jacques difficult to manage. Meanwhile she keeps having strange dreams about what lies beneath the mountain at Coniston.

But when Merlin is sucked into a magical map, his sister Vivien enlists Susan’s help to save him, and in doing so discovers a powerful and ancient entity with a murderous past and a sinister plan that involves using Susan’s power and sacrificing her life. Thus the hunt begins to find and disable the entity before it can reach Susan.

I was beyond excited to return to this world. Merlin dazzles yet again in an enviable and ever-changing array of costumes, and of course, in a book about booksellers, there is a steady stream of references to books and authors. The ancient city of Bath is the perfect backdrop for an Old World tale and I adored the portrayal of its Ancient Sovereign, Sulis Minerva.

There was a constant string of tension about who was of most danger to Susan at any given moment. Once again we’re reminded that the booksellers have traditionally ‘eliminated’ people of Susan’s background and there are those who remain wary of her.

There are also moments where they clash with Inspector Greene, their liaison within the police, who questions their methods and their readiness to kill anyone they deem to be too dangerous. At no point does Nix shy away from the fact that the booksellers are largely a power unto themselves and are dangerous to boot.

Without spoilers, the ending points to more books in the series, and if this is true, not only am I already dying for the next book but I wonder whether this threat from within the booksellers will continue for Susan.

This series is a tribute to the power of books and reading to protect us from the evils in the world. The booksellers’ passions – whether for fighting, researching, preserving or innovating – are all fed and linked by their love of books and they use this knowledge to protect the average mortals around them. There can be no mistaking the relevance of this theme given the recent discussions around banned books and which stories we have access to. In this sense, books are a powerful weapon, and Nix utilises this fact to its full extent in the bookseller series.

The Sinister Booksellers of Bath is a worthy sequel, embarking on an entirely new adventure while still holding fast to the vibrancy of its predecessor. It is fast-paced, fun-loving and eccentric despite being a story centered around murder and underhanded dealings. It is a love letter to the literary world and a book for any reader who has ever wished they could live inside the worlds of their books.

If urban fantasy melded with traditional folklore, a 1980’s alternate England, and a gender-fluid magical crime-fighting bookseller sounds like fun to you, then don’t miss this book.

Sinister Booksellers of Bath


Garth Nix’s The Sinister Booksellers of Bath is out now from Allen & Unwin. Grab yourself a copy from Booktopia HERE.

Jess Gately

Jess Gately is a freelance editor and writer with a particular love for speculative fiction and graphic novels.