Peter Maloy’s book has much to offer the reader in terms of imagination. His visualisation of a town built on a caldera in the middle of the Bristol Channel is reminiscent of the roaming cities of Mortal Engines in its ability to be self-sufficient and in the pride of the people inhabiting it. I liked the idea of this stand-alone island and Maloy has created a colourful mass of characters to occupy it who come across as simple folk who all get along and are quite happy to be separate from everyone else.
Obviously, the countries surrounding them have different ideas and Splinterton as it is known in the book, becomes embroiled in a plot which threatens to take over its little dominion and its valuable natural resources.
This book is a hotchpotch as there are elements of many genres of fiction mixed here: mild fantasy in the creation of Splinterton itself and the Syrenis; political in the machinations of the different countries and their keenness for power; espionage in the form of Martlet; steam punk in the resourcefulness and inventiveness of the people of Splinterton ; and black humour in the creation of the order of St Valencia la Fey, a group of fighting nuns who pride themselves on their madness.
And for the most part it works quite well as all the different elements combine effectively to drive the plot to its conclusion.
One thing that I did find difficult about the book is the formatting of the dialogue as it could have been better controlled with more effective punctuation. The author has also chosen to use capitalisation for certain nouns in the book and I wonder if this has been done as a stylistic feature, to emulate older fiction where this would have been accepted in the narrative; a unique quirk that mirrors the historical feel of Splinterton itself.
There are some dark episodes in this book which I think could have been made more tense: there is one particularly gruesome discovery which, in its discussion by the characters, I felt, lacked depth, the findings of the search party blandly discussing it in very basic terms and almost flippantly.
All in all, I quite liked Splinter Town, it having particular resonance for me as someone who is familiar with the places mentioned even if the borders in Maloy’s book are different in his fictional world.
This review was first published on Reedsy Discovery where I was privileged to read it as an ARC.