The Resurrectionist of Caligo by Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga is a macabre fantasy set in a Victorian-esque secondary world. It’s a fun read. Trimboli and Zaloga give us quirky characters that keep you engaged. They also drop us into a fascinating Victorian tinged world and set a murder mystery within it. There are typical mystery elements, political intrigue, and a good bit of action.
The Victorian-esque setting helps to make the characters shine, particularly in their quirkiness. We meet Roger Weathersby, a self-styled man of science who spends many of his nights digging up corpses to sell to the local university for study. His humor and much of his plot arc is certainly macabre, but the authors manage this in a way that it never quite feels oppressive. It’s morbid humor, but it is funny. His chapters were fun to read, if macabre. Our other main character, Sibylla, is an exiled Princess. Her plot line lets us see the opposite end of the socio-economic spectrum in this world. The juxtaposition of Roger’s poverty with Sibylla’s royalty is at times stark and drives home just how unequal the entire society is. I enjoyed both characters, though it took quite a while for Sibylla to grow on me. Well past the halfway mark. In addition to the characters, I thought the world building was peppered with interesting elements. The way in which the royal family is worshipped was fascinating. This provided an interesting twist on the magic and an uncommon take on royalty. If anything, I would have liked to have seen that bit of world building developed even more.
Which brings me to my major criticism of Caligo. Much of the world building didn’t feel like it hung together to me. The legal system of this world plays an important role in the plot. But the legal system is different enough from modern systems that it isn’t explained very well, leaving the reader guessing. To make matters worse, it feels like the system is open to rank abuse to the point where I’m not certain how it is that the world even begins to function with it. It felt a bit like the legal system as a convenient way to accomplish a plot point. On a separate note, Roger has a half-brother who plays a role in the story and his characterization felt split to me. People tend to perceive him as noble, kind even, but towards Roger he is universally a jerk. This difference was never satisfactorily explained and left me unsure of how I was meant to understand his character. This is doubly disappointing because he had the potential to be an interesting counterpoint to both Roger and Sibylla. The pacing was also a little uneven in the novel, action-packed at points and yet seeming to drag at others.
While uneven in several elements, The Resurrectionist of Caligo was a fun read. It will be of interest to those who love Victorian settings and quirky characters while also forgiving of uneven pacing or world building with some holes.
Review by Calvin Park
6.5/10 from 1 reviews
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