Every Brilliant Book I Read This Autumn
Can you believe that we’ve reached the end of 2019, the end of the decade? As most people are still off work, I thought now would be a good time with some free hours in front of the fire with a class of mulled wine or hot tea in hand ahead of us to share all of the brilliant books I read this autumn. I know this book list looks a bit shorter than normal, but that is because I’ve been diving into lots of series, so if you want something to really enjoy for a couple of weeks, there are some crackers here! If you’ve already read these, or you’re looking for more holiday reads here are all the books I enjoyed last winter, during the spring, and last summer. As ever, I’d love to hear your recommendations! Please note that this post contains affiliate links, that are all marked with a star*
The Corset* by Laura Purcell
I got myself a signed copy of The Corset* when Laura came to talk to my book group just before Halloween and wow did I race through it! A very gothic read, our heroine, Dorothea, is not who it is all about. She’s young, rich, and to be honest a bit flighty, and as many Victorian women of her station were want to do under the guise of do-goodery, she undertakes visiting female prisoners in Oakgate Prison and meets murderer Ruth Butterham. Or is she a murderer? We follow Dorothea as she visits Ruth and questions her about her crimes (she also studies the shape of woman criminals skulls to see if their criminal disposition is written there in their shape), and Ruth’s own memories, following her tale of woe, murder and terrible, terrible secrets. You’ll question if Ruth is telling the truth at every turn, and only at the end you realise that what you have been told is not what you thought you knew. If you’ve read Laura’s hit The Silent Companions*, this is better. The best novel I read in 2019.
Beloved Poison* by E.S. Thompson
If Victorian gothic literature and anatomy schools full of corpses in various stages of dismemberment (both by our unknown assailant – these are murder mystery books, there are four for your to get your teeth into so far: Beloved Poison*, Dark Asylum*, The Blood* and Surgeons Hall* – and our cast of bloodthirsty gentleman surgeons) with a good murder mystery in the middle is your thing, you’ll love the Jem Flockhart books.
Jem Flockhart is an apothecary who lives and works with her father at the crumbling St Saviour’s Infirmary in London, except for woman can’t be apothecaries in Victorian London, so she’s been forced to live as a boy for as long as she can remember so she can follow in her father’s footsteps as hospital apothecary. Will Quartermain is the young architect tasked with emptying the hospital’s overflowing cemetery of bodies (yes, it really is as awful and gruesome as it sounds!) so that the hospital can be pulled down to make way for a railway bridge. Together they stumble across a series of tiny coffins stuffed with dead flowers hidden behind the chapel wall, and with them a murderous conspiracy that goes to the heart of the hospital. There is a wonderful cast of characters you’ll visit throughout the books, lots of the gothic, and many a murder – I honestly can’t wait for the next one!
The Wages of Sin* by Kaite Welsh
I read The Wages of Sin* and it’s sequel The Unquiet Heart* together in an entire day when I was in bed off sick – they’re the perfect ‘next read’ once you’ve got up to date with the Jem Flockhart books. Sarah Gilchrist is one of Edinburgh’s first class of female medical students studying anatomy, spending her evenings working in a charity hospital for the poor. However, when once of her prostitute patients turns up on her dissecting table, apparently murdered she’s drawn into a brilliant murder mystery through Edinburgh’s Victorian underworld full of body snatchers, fallen women, and a cast of surgeons almost as corpse-obsessed as those in the Jem Flockhart books. Obviously, as I said, read these if you enjoyed those, but also if you love a good murder mystery and strong, trailblazing female characters. Oh, and their is a pretty great, unconventional romance in book two, too!
Court of Thorns and Roses* by Sarah J. Mass
I know I’m a bit late to the party with this, but Sarah J. Mass’ Court of Thorns and Roses* series is my new epic fantasy love. After finishing my English Literature degree it put me off reading fiction for a good few years, which is why I’d never read any Mass before! These books are brilliant, the sort you want to go to bed early to read, and carry everywhere with you. We start with a modern-day, otherworldly take on Beauty and the Beast, where our heroine Feyre accidentally kills a faerie while out hunting to feed her starving family. As punishment under a treaty agreed to centuries ago to keep their world at peace she has to go and live across the wall with a disconcerting faerie high lord for evermore. Her new world is fracturing, however, and her new life in a beautiful court is under threat. There is magic, romance, war, sacrifice, friendship and a big bad to face in the second half of the book, and then everything you thought you knew is turned on its head for book two where the world approaches war, and another high lord enters her life, very different – both in personality, and in the character of the court he rules over – to the one that carried her across the wall in the first place.
Children of Blood and Bone* by Tomi Adeyemi
Children of Blood and Bone is my current read, and I’ve got another 100 pages or so before I can dive straight into the second book that came out earlier this year, Children of Virtue and Vengeance*. It’s a West-African inspired fantasy in a wonderfully woven world of sand, sun and the magic of the gods, where we follow a both like and unlikely group of heroes (and those trying to get in their way) trying to bring magic back to their land, one where those who used to have magic became a downtrodden, ill-treated lower cast under a brutal state regime when all their magic vanished overnight. It’s something a bit different, even if like me you read a lot of fantasy books, and while it took me a few 100 pages or so to get into it it is worth it; fast paced and unpredictable, I know I’ve got many more twists to go before I reach the final page.