The novel begins with a fair amount of rejoicing over the birth of Titus Groan, aka, the new heir to the Gormenghast throne. However, young Titus quickly fades into oblivion to make way for more sinister happening at the castle and for a young kitchen servant named Steerpike. The ambitious teen has visions of grandeur and immediately puts plans in motion to increase his relevance. By the time young Titus is ready for his coronation, the stage is set for a battle of power and greed and deceit all against the backdrop of a really, really, really big castle.
Okay, Titus Groan wasn’t as bad as the opening illustration portrayed (yes, we have a flair for the dramatics), but it was far too slow and wordy for our tastes in fantasy novels. The other problem was the setting. For whatever reason we had a difficult time visualizing the castle, which is strange considering half the novel is devoted to its description. We appreciate the fact that Gormenghast Castle is flippin huge, but we couldn’t seem to get our imagination around the more intimate details. Maybe we need to brush up on our castle vernacular... To add to our dissatisfaction, we were quite appalled by a certain event that had a very negative outcome on the castle’s impressive library... Book violence is unacceptable!!!
It would be unfair not to briefly mention the impressive writing (when it wasn’t impressively descriptive) and the fact that we did enjoy the cast. Steerpike, Flay, and Lord Sepulchrave were all interesting and charismatic despite one of them being directly involved in the aforementioned library incident. Yep, we’re still a bit raw. There’s also a pair of twin sisters that bring a fair amount of intrigue and creepiness to the table.
In the end, we must get over our less than enthusiastic feelings because it’s full speed ahead... Gormenghast appears in TRILOGY form at number 84 on the BBC big read. We WILL triumph over this entire list... someday!