- € 9,99
SHORTLISTED FOR THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LITERATURE'S ENCORE AWARD 2018
LONGLISTED FOR THE WALTER SCOTT PRIZE 2018
'A sheer fantastical delight' The Times
'Epic' New York Times
'An immense treat' Observer Books of the Year
'A fast-paced adventure story' i
'Magical' Sunday Express
In uncharted Peru, the holy town of Bedlam stands at the edge of a mysterious forest. Deep within are cinchona trees, whose bark yields the only known treatment for malaria.
In 1859, across the Pacific, India is ravaged by the disease. In desperation, the India Office dispatches the injured expeditionary Merrick Tremayne to Bedlam, under orders to return with cinchona cuttings. But there he meets Raphael, an enigmatic priest who is the key to a secret which will prove more valuable than they could ever have imagined.
On account of a leg injury, botanical expert Merrick Tremayne, the hero of this witty, entrancing novel set in the 19th century from Pulley (The Watchmaker of Filigree Street), initially declines to travel from England to Peru for the East India Company. Because Merrick insists that a heavy statue overlooking his father's grave has mysteriously moved, Merrick's half-brother, Charles, worries that he's afflicted with the mental illness that landed their mother in an asylum. To avoid either of the unpleasant choices that Charles offers out of fear for Merrick's sanity (taking work at a parsonage where he'd no longer see the statue, or being confined with their mother), Merrick joins the treacherous expedition, whose ostensible purpose is to retrieve cuttings from the rare trees that are the only source for quinine, needed to alleviate a malaria epidemic in India that has adversely affected the company's business. On arrival in Peru, Merrick encounters more oddities, including animated statues that give benedictions and a border made of salt and bone that is fatal to cross, which cause him to feel that he has entered "an imaginary place where the river was a dragon and somewhere in the forest was something stranger than elves." His quest to both stay alive and to obtain the precious cinchona plants leads to more marvels and to tragedy. Pulley makes the fantastic feel plausible and burnishes her reputation as a gifted storyteller.