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The Gormenghast Novels (Gormenghast #1-3)

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  7,041 Ratings  ·  521 Reviews
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 Gor ...more
Paperback, 1173 pages
Published December 1995 by Overlook Press (first published 1959)
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Jon I love the Overlook one. It is more of a collectible version, so its the version to get if you like having a particularly nice artifact of a book. I…moreI love the Overlook one. It is more of a collectible version, so its the version to get if you like having a particularly nice artifact of a book. I really loved the Gormenghast trilogy, so having a pretty copy was something that appealed to me.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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J.G. Keely
I know of no author in all of the English language who is like Peake, or who could aspire to be like him. His voice is as unique as that of Milton, Bierce, Conrad, Blake, Donne, or Eliot, and as fully-realized. I am a hard and critical man, cynical and not easily moved, but there are passages in the Gormenghast series which so shocked me by the force of their beauty that I snap the book shut, overwhelmed with wonderment, and take a moment to catch my breath.

I would drop my head. My eyes would se
A thing of beauty, like the words it contains: carefully bound, with sumptuous illustrations. I'm often wary of pictures in adult books, but Peake was a painter and illustrator as well as a writer, so I make an exception in this case. He sketched in the margins of most of his writings, as he wrote. Artistic symbiosis.

Two of my three favourite books, plus a third I’ve learned to like, in one volume, with an excellent introduction by China Mieville, and Sebastian Peake's note about the illustrati
Sep 28, 2010 Michael rated it it was amazing
WARNING: The posts below are purely fictional. They never happened, and were not posted by real people. Any similarities to anyone, including myself, are purely your imagination. Even the posts posted by real people were not posted by real people.

Any similarities between this thread and reality are entirely coincidental. But, that scary picture of the blond guy crying? Oh, that's real. That's so sad, and so real.
Rotting shadows and incongruous beams of light are what I remember most from this... novel, if you can call it that. Incarnation would likely be more accurate. Characters are merely spectres generated by the stones of Gormenghast Castle. The fragile mind of the author had descended just far enough to see the music in the movements of the grotesque pieces we cannot bring ourselves to look upon. Months after reading this, I'm still not entirely sure what it is that I took away from Gormenghast. Th ...more
Jan 21, 2008 Micha rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: lygophiliacs. and everyone else.
As of late, whenever it is cold and inhospitable outside, preferably raining or snowing, I become a wanderer of long corridors and twisted stairwells, of crumbling roofs and jutting turrets, of cobwebbed dungeons and cavernous cloisters. I descend into the fathomless depths of the imagination with author Mervyn Peake. One of the fathers of the modern Fantasy genre, Peake is little known outside literary circles. His masterpiece, The Gormenghast Trilogy, was published around the time of Tolkien’s ...more
As it happened I read this in three separate volumes. I wouldn't recommend going for a one volume edition unless you have very big hands. But out of convenience I'll lump them all together.

Titus Groan is the first volume of Mervyn Peake's distinctive Gormenghast trilogy. The first two volumes of which come across as being strongly inspired by Peake's childhood as a missionary's son in China while the third has the taste of post World War II Europe.

The Earls of Groan rule Gormenghast. A great cra
Eddie Watkins
Feb 07, 2009 Eddie Watkins rated it it was amazing
Shelves: uk-fiction
One of the great hermetic works of literature. A complete and total world unto itself, almost to the point of detaching from the Earth and assuming its own orbit. If it were to do this it would be a strangely barren world however, a barren world of endlessly ramifying imagination, an almost airless world, a world both vast and microscopic. These books, this world, induced a tremendous sense of mental claustrophobia in this reader, yet all these years later I still long to return to it.
Vit Babenco
Apr 14, 2013 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing
The world is divided in two parts: the domain of ugliness and the realm of beauty, the morass of useless and stale traditions and the enigmatic and enticing life on the land outside. And the lonely boy Titus Groan, the heir of the monstrously huge castle of Gormenghast, must grow up and fight the lethargic, deadly inertia and crush fatal cosmic evil surrounding him.
And the language of the saga is a creation of an unadulterated wizardry:
“It gave Mr Flay what he imagined must be pleasure. He was d
Don't compare to lord of the to Kafka, Poe, Lewis Carroll,or maybe Edward Gorey..a mostly drop dead funny book(or books) that retains a sense of unbearable grimness.
Mar 23, 2011 Mariel rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: the drowning man
Recommended to Mariel by: other voices
I remember vividly the night that I began reading Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan (first in the Gormenghast trilogy). Seventeen years old and awake all night, almost every night, incapable of shutting the mind off for some peace and shut eye. I remember looking down at my instant favorite in my lap not being able to believe my luck to have found such a book. Escape! Mervyn Peake's trilogy are not books that will ease loneliness... What they did give to me were these sets of images that will not leave ...more
May 23, 2012 Terence rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Titus Groan: Part 1 of 3:

Peake’s writing in this first Gormenghast novel reminds me of E.R. Eddison’s in The Worm Ouroboros, both for its fecundity and for the manifest enjoyment in the English language its author feels. Twenty years ago – even as few as 10 – I wouldn’t have appreciated this book and would have stopped reading it rather quickly but today I can’t help but thrill to opening passages like:

This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fi
May 16, 2016 Sookie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy, 2016

I want to be buried with this book.

More, later.
Mar 25, 2014 Bokeshi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Gormenghast trilogy is as close to perfection as literature can be. It is unique, sublime, whimsical, moving, weird, surprising, otherworldly, and written in shimmering, velvety, voloptouos prose, wonderful beyond belief. No amount of imagery, sumptuous, voluminous, sensuous or rapturous can even begin to describe the delights of Peake's masterpiece. A true triumph of language and imagination.
Jul 29, 2007 Duchess rated it it was ok
Someone please give me the power to finish trudging through this book. Interesting idea & setting, but the writing is T.E.D.I.O.U.S.
I love nice descriptive writing as much as the next reader, but this is kind of ridiculous.
Teresa Edgerton
Oct 15, 2011 Teresa Edgerton rated it it was amazing

The castle of Gormenghast is an immense rambling structure, made up of meandering corridors, countless courtyards, towers, libraries, attics, and underground passages — there are, as well, vast regions the author leaves unexplored, and it is more than likely the inhabitants have forgotten they even exist. If this were not enough, there is another tremendous landscape across the rooftops. Within this remarkable building the Groan family and its servitors enac
Ben Babcock
One of the more pernicious aspects of epic fantasy is medieval stasis. Even as we celebrate the freedoms made possible through democracy, we revel in escapism to an inherently oppressive setting, where hereditary titles are standard-issue and the plot often involves helping a rightful heir regain the throne. This is but one of the many tensions that arises in Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast (or Titus) books. The eponymous castle is a grand affair in its own right, but it is the locus of a much grande ...more
Dec 01, 2009 Matt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels, reviewed
Not to be compared with Lord of the Rings but appreciated as its own distinctive universe, owing more stylistic debts to Carroll, Poe, Dickens and a touch of Kafka, Mervyn Peake's world of Gormenghast is a dark and bizarre fairy tale without the fairies, or more aptly, a tale of grotesques. Once I gathered the rhythm of the prose, I couldn't escape the sprawling labyrinth that is the castle centerpiece of the first two novels, Titus Groan and Gormenghast, nor did I want to, which is why I, as so ...more
Apr 07, 2008 Jim rated it it was amazing
Forgive the cliche, but there just are not enough stars for this trilogy. This is a masterswork about a fantastic world in a village in a castle. This is fantasy that owes absolutely nothing to Tolkien (not that I'm putting him down, LOTR is fabulous) If one thinks of Middle Earth as a Macrocosm, then Goremenghast is a Microcosm. Think of Dickens, Intoxicated with the English Language, writing a Gothic Fantasy, and you get some of the feeling. I have read this book 3 times, and I am sure I will ...more
Mar 30, 2009 Bruce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mervyn Peake’s The Gormenghast Trilogy (Titus Groan, Gormenghast, and Titus Alone), published between 1946-1959, was originally conceived as a four or five book series, but the author died after the publication of only the first two books, the third having been reconstructed after his death from his notebooks. In this work, Peake created a locale and story almost hallucinogenic in atmosphere, internally consistent but sufficiently phantasmagoric as to seem dreamlike, fantastic, twisted and bizar ...more
Feb 26, 2009 Terran rated it it was ok
Shelves: for-fun
Got, oh, maybe 150 pages into this and couldn't get excited about it, so I gave up.

I have repeatedly been told of the mastery of this book. Perhaps I just wasn't in the right mood. In general, I do go for dark and intricate and elaborate. But I just couldn't make myself care about this world or its people. I couldn't get into the right "suspension of disbelief" mindset -- kept having intrusive thoughts like, "Wait, where do the inhabitants of this castle get food from?" or, "Wait, I've seen trul
Apr 18, 2007 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Nerds
I'd call it Shakespeare for the Lord of the Rings set. Did I just write that? Peake's imagination is otherwordly. His descriptive talent is singular. His language does remind me of Shakespeare or a particularly eloquent philosophical writer or something. The first two books are the best, concerning a dying feudal society and the leadership thereof. The monarchs have been forced, through layers and layers of tradition that no-one remembers the reasons for, to exercise complicated daily rituals. A ...more
Dec 29, 2011 Jeremy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, literary
'Titus Groan':

'The moon slid inexorably into its zenith, the shadows shrivelling to the feet of all that cast them, and as Rantel approached the hollow at the hem of the Twisted Woods he was treading in a pool of his own midnight.'

I shall read the other two stories in this volume in due course, but for now, shall leave the shadows of Gormenghast, the deathly halls with their noises dark as shrinking pupils, and those people, heavy, flinching and lost between those marvelous walls...

There is muc
Sarah Anne
I'm honestly not sure what I can even say that would convey the brilliance that is this novel.

Uh-oh. Words are failing me...


I guess I need to think about it. It's without a doubt one of the more original novels I've ever read. It's atmospheric, charming, devastating, heartbreaking, heartlifting, horrifying, fascinating... Must I get out a thesaurus? IT'S BRILLIANT!

This particular edition covers the three books that make up the trilogy that Peake himself wrote: Titus Groans, Gormenghast, a
Nov 02, 2012 James rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I own nearly every iteration of these novels, including the most recent reissue, which I adore, but I picked up this edition again this morning and just fell into it, from the introductory essays by Quentin Crisp and Anthony Burgess to the opening scenes . . .

I cannot even begin to tell you the number of times I've read these stories. They live inside me not just because of their intense baroque imagery, but also because of their nearly flawless diction. The words are precise and stunning. The w
Jul 19, 2008 Sarah rated it really liked it
The castle, itself, is an entity. The plot spirals deeper and deeper into its psyche. The characters are both complex and symbolic.

.. & Lady Fuchsia is my patron saint:
"Less formidable, yet sullen as her mother and as incalculable, is Titus' sister, Fuchsia. Sensitive as was her father without his intellect, Fuchsia tosses her black flag of hair, bites at her childish underlip, scowls, laughs, broods, is tender, is intemperate, suspicious and credulous all in a day. Her crimson dress inflame
Dec 03, 2016 Linda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
I reviewed each book in this trilogy separately, but this was the actual edition I read. Overall, I easily give the trilogy 5 stars, even though the last book did not have the same setting and characters as the first two and so I couldn't help but rate it slightly lower. This edition includes numerous critiques and essays which have been interesting to read so far.
Nov 26, 2013 Dorcas rated it really liked it
First off, this review is for the Gormenghast TRILOGY. (one book)
I would give this epic 5 stars if it wasnt for the last book in the trilogy, "Titus Alone". It just doesnt fit in with the rest of the story and I actually skimmed through it because it felt disjointed to me.

However, the first two books in the trilogy "Titus Groan" and "Gormenghast" are well worth a read. Weird, yes. But if you like engrossing escape fiction set in an imaginary place and unknown time with no mythological creatures
Ok I admit, I got a little over whelmed 752 pages in, and still have to read the last novel in the Trilogy 'Titus Alone'. I have never read anything like 'Titus Groan' and 'Gormenghast'; it is hard to describe so I wont, just to say I have never read such an organic novel. Most novels you can see the scaffolding, how everything is put together. Mervyn Peak's characters are all in full colour and complete individuals, Peak just gives them a place to play.I only noticed once in 752 pages character ...more
Randolph Carter
Jan 18, 2013 Randolph Carter rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
How do you review a book that can't be compared to anything else? One of my favorite books of all time. Titus Groan and especially Gormenghast are outstanding. Titus Alone is a strange sequel that probably was influenced somewhat by Peake's progressing disease. Still worth reading.

Bizarre, fantastical, Gothic, symbolic, surrealistic, beautiful. Peake's language is superb. Some of the most gorgeous prose to read.
Dec 10, 2013 midnightfaerie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
"I am tired of your words," said Titus.
"I use them as a kind of lattice-work," said Muzzlehatch. "They hide me away from me...let alone from you. Words can be tiresome as a swarm of insects. They can prick and buzz! Words can be no more than a series of farts; or on the other hand they can be adamantine, obdurate, inviolable, stone upon stone. Rather like your 'so-called Gormenghast' (you notice that I use the same phrase again. The phrase that makes you cross?) For although you have learned, it
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The Gormenghast Novels: Worth the Time? 2 11 Jan 22, 2017 01:53PM  
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Mervyn Laurence Peake was an English modernist writer, artist, poet and illustrator. He is best known for what are usually referred to as the Gormenghast books, though the Titus books would be more accurate: the three works that exist were the beginning of what Peake conceived as a lengthy cycle, following his protagonist Titus Groan from cradle to grave, but Peake's untimely death prevented compl ...more
More about Mervyn Peake...

Other Books in the Series

Gormenghast (4 books)
  • Titus Groan (Gormenghast, #1)
  • Gormenghast
  • Titus Alone (Gormenghast, #3)
  • Titus Awakes: The Lost Book of Gormenghast (Gormenghast, #4)

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“If ever he had harboured a conscience in his tough narrow breast he had by now dug out and flung away the awkward thing - flung it so far away that were he ever to need it again he could never find it. High-shouldered to a degree little short of malformation, slender and adroit of limb and frame, his eyes close-set and the colour of dried blood, he is climbing the spiral staircase of the soul of Gormenghast, bound for some pinnacle of the itching fancy - some wild, invulnerable eyrie best known to himself; where he can watch the world spread out below him, and shake exultantly his clotted wings” 25 likes
“Cold love’s the loveliest love of all. So clear, so crisp, so empty. In short, so civilized.” 13 likes
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