Titus Groan is the first part of Peake’s Gormenghast series, one of those strange fantastic names that buzzes through your mind for years as something that’s somehow part of the literary landscape, without really giving a clear idea of what’s it all about. That’s what second-hand books are for, though: blind buys. It turns out that the series (thus far) is a unique piece of literature, that is generally seen as a classic of fantasy, which is a bit misleading when you get down to it. Titus Groan is rather fantastic, in the sense that it is set in a gothicy castle, gloomy and dusty, a features characters that are as grotesque as they are fascinating. However, unlike most fantastic works, there is little room for the magical in Titus Groan, at most a touch of the uncanny. Instead, the work’s brilliance rests in its entirety on those characters, the strange, meaningless rituals performed in the castle, the intrigue and attempts at murder, and the general sense of weirdness that pervades the events in the book. I get the idea that the series is somewhat of an author’s favourite, and quite inspirational to many artistic folk, and judging by the first volume, I can see why, as Peake has created a thoroughly original and lively work.
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