As civil war tears 17th century England apart, Thomas Treadwater returns home, summoned by his young sister. Esther, concerned by the growing closeness between their father and a new servant, has spun quite the tale. And Thomas, though glad of a reason to escape the battlefield, thinks little of it.
But when he arrives to find his father insensible, felled by a stroke, and the servant girl accused of witchcraft, it’s clear something else is at work in Norfolk. Something sinister. Something even a rational man like Thomas Treadwater cannot explain.
She is awake. And she will not rest.
Rosie Andrews‘ The Leviathan is a beautifully written historical fiction, marrying elements of political tension, Enlightenment thinking, and some good ol’ fashioned horror. Bolstered by compelling leads, eerie set-pieces, and a wholly satisfying ending, it’s a stellar debut from Andrews.
That said, The Leviathan‘s shifting focus can frustrate if you’re leaning more into one of its genres than the other. That’s not to say that any one thing is particularly stronger than anything else. Thomas navigating the legal ins and outs of witchcraft, or managing local politics is as engaging as the eventual evil that surfaces. But, it doesn’t always fit together. As a result, the pacing occasionally feels off-kilter, and there’s a propensity to spend a lot of time with interesting characters that get ditched a little unceremoniously at the end of a chapter.
It’s a little difficult to talk about my favourite parts of the book, given that they’re riddled with spoilers, but suffice it to say that Andrews shines when building tension and crafting a twist. Simply put, I’d take a full on historical horror from Andrews any day. If you liked the unsettling locations and religious themes of Michelle Paver’s Wakenhyrst, you’ll find a lot to love here.