A Book You May Have Missed
Foundling by D.M. Cornish
Foundling by D.M. Cornish
Anna majored in Muggle Studies and German language, but these days she likes to write and read YA when she isn’t busy with her office job. She adores fantasy and sci-fi in particular, and is on the lookout for a great YA manuscript to beta-read.
One summer after months of Thucydides and Kafka at uni (there is simply nothing at all wrong with some Thucydides and Kafka, only that there can be too much Thucydides and Kafka) my mother brought me back a book from the local library.
"It's called 'Monster Blood Tattoo," she said, somehow proud of this find, "It sounds sort of weird."
Well. It was weird. But mostly brilliant.
It starts off like lots of books about orphans start: in an orphanage. This one happens to be called "Madam Opera's Estimable Marine Society for Foundling Girls and Boys." Things are made worse for our hero, who bears the unfortunate name of Rossamünd, which is normally reserved only for girls. Rossamünd and his fellow foundlings learn useful skills so that when they leave the confines of the Marine Society, they can make their own way in one of the city-states of the empire known as the Half Continent.
One day Rossamünd recieves a surprise job offer as a Lamplighter—a soldier charged with lighting and dousing the lamps that light the empire’s dangerous roads. Along his way he comes across a very singular and spectacular monster-hunter named Europe, along with several more unsavory characters.
The Half Continent is populated by all manner of people and all manner of monsters. They are constantly in a state of conflict with one another. Humans hire monster hunters, or, as they prefer to be known --"teratologists" to protect themselves from the beasts. Many of these teratologists tattoo themselves with the blood from the monsters they have slain, and it is from this practice the series got its name.
Or, it did elsewhere, but here in the States it is known as the Foundling's Tale.
This Half Continent is a frightful but amazing place. Composed mostly of rival city-states and colorful characters, it is structured and written beautifully. D.M. Cornish inlcudes several of his own sketches inside the text itself, and there is a helpful and fascinating appendix with a glossary to help the reader along. The invented words are nothing that one can’t puzzle out, given the context, but they are so precisely familiar yet strange at the same time that I found myself smiling more often than not.
Take this example:
cruorpunxis: spilled-blood punctures, said “kroo-or-punks-sis;” the proper name for a monster-blood tattoo.
Or this one:
Faustus: the red star and actually distant planet that nightly moves through the constellation Vespasio and follows green Maudlin across the sky—who, as legend has it, is his lover—forever chasing and never catching. Faustus is regarded as the Signal Star of frustrated or jilted lovers and of lost causes.
This is a book to linger over and re-read for those of us who are obsessed with worldbuilding.
The storytelling is whimsical and satisfying, and what’s more, there are two sequels already released. Need I say more?
What are you waiting for? Get lost in the Half Continent already!