by Mervyn Peake

3 avg rating
Book 69 of 445 in the Best Fantasy Books
510 votes 6 comments
A doomed lord, an emergent hero, and a dazzling array of bizarre creatures inhabit the magical world of the Gormenghast novels which, along with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, reign as one of the undisputed fantasy classics of all time. At the center of it all is the seventy-seventh Earl, Titus Groan, who stands to inherit the miles of rambling stone and mortar that form Gormenghast Castle and its kingdom, unless the conniving Steerpike, who is determined to rise above his menial position and control the House of Groan, has his way.

In these extraordinary novels, Peake has created a world where all is like a dream--lush, fantastical, and vivid. Accompanying the text are Peake's own drawings, illustrating the whole assembly of strange and marvelous creatures that inhabit Gormenghast.
Introductory Essays by Anthony Burgess and Quentin Crisp
Twelve critical essays
Fragment of the unpublished novel, Titus Awakes

"Mervyn Peake is a finer poet than Edgar Allan Poe, and he is therefore able to maintain his world of fantasy brilliantly through three novels. It is a very, very great work . . . a classic of our age."-- Robertson Davies

"[Peake's books] are actual additions to life; they give, like certain rare dreams, sensations we never had before, and enlarge our conception of the range of possible experience."-- C. S. Lewis

"This extravagant epic about a labyrinthine castle populated with conniving Dickensian grotesques is the true fantasy classic of our time."-- The Washington Post Book World

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Anonymous | 2012-11-28 10:09:29
The strangest books you will read. Maybe the best too.
Anonymous | 2012-12-02 02:01:46
I think I finally finished with the books after seeing yet another beautiful and headstrong woman thrown into a pit of rapists to “teach her how to be beautiful” ... Wait what?.. really dont know if i want to read that book or not
Anonymous | 2013-07-28 03:22:54
Absolutely brilliant. Vivid characters, graphic setting and brilliant writing that predates Tolkien and CS Lewis.
Anonymous | 2013-07-30 12:26:05
The Gormenghast series by Mervyn Peake, particularly Titus Groan (1946) and Gormenghast (1950) predates The Lord of the Rings by at least 4 years. Oh and I did I mention it’s really REALLY good? Even after 63 years, even for someone who is an avid reader of modern fantasy, I can still honestly say that they were some of the best fantasy books I’ve read this year. To put this claim into context and sell these books for the fantasy modernists among you, beyond a surprising firsthand experience that is, I shall explain why this series is REALLY good. One name: Steerpike. Not even being the titular character for this series there is no doubt that this dark figure drove the plot home to anyone who has read it. This is because he is one of greatest proactive, maniacal and intelligent POV antagonist I have had the pleasure of reading. For this reason I put it that the main reason many consider the third book, Titus Alone, to be a disappointment is because this complex and sympathetic villain is not in it. The plot follows his exploitative schemes in the eerie gothic castle of Gormenghast in which he attempts to interweave himself within the highly classed-based government system to the point that he is a crucial gear in their mechanical traditions. He does this by learning the trades of everyone essential to their workings, gaining favor through phony flattery and killing off anyone who gets in his way. With the Earl of Gormenghast slowly becoming more and more senile, and a new heir being born, it was the perfect time to indoctrinate himself into the very framework and begin pulling the strings of those who would help him gain power. Indeed it isn’t until the second novel of the series that Titus Groan becomes a character perspective but even then he is, like his older sister, a rather whimsical character resentful of his inescapable position of Earl. This shows the different side of the coin to Steerpike who wishes to gain power where Titus sees his position as only a prison of responsibility from which he seeks freedom. Granted, one would be hard pressed to turn a corner in Gormenghast and not run into some kind of nutcase but this only goes to make each character uniquely bizarre and colorful. Honorable mentions go to Dr. Prunesquallor, Mr. Flay and even the Twins, two characters who would backstab one another despite thinking exactly alike. Watching the mini-series adaption cannot justify those interested in reading these books. Lacking the inner monologues of the characters, the plot of the mini-series could barely scratch the tip of the ice-berg of what the novel portrays. On the downside the narrative and the descriptions of the setting and events are not flawless and there are moments that you will just want the story to get on with it. But don’t let this put you off as it is a mere drum-roll that gives the action of the story that much more of an edge. With a beautifully developed setting, vivid and unique characters, an exciting and intriguing plot, it’s just simply a brilliant series.
Anonymous | 2013-08-06 03:57:38
Why is this not in the top 50 at least?
Anonymous | 2014-04-09 04:24:04
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