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(Cities of the Weft #1)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  116 ratings  ·  30 reviews
GOD IS DEAD, his corpse hidden in the catacombs beneath Mordew.

In the slums of the sea-battered city a young boy called Nathan Treeves lives with his parents, eking out a meagre existence by picking treasures from the Living Mud and the half-formed, short-lived creatures it spawns. Until one day his desperate mother sells him to the mysterious Master of Mordew.

The Master
Hardcover, 604 pages
Published August 13th 2020 by Galley Beggar Press
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  116 ratings  ·  30 reviews

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Paul Fulcher
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was a big fan of Alex Pheby’s previous two novels but approached this one with some trepidation. Fantasy is not my favourite genre (as a benchmark Lord of the Rings I abandoned in my younger days and more recently The City And The City and A Song of Fire and Ice I found ridiculous) and I also have a strong aversion to long novels - my ideal length is 100 pages and for anything over 250 pages the author has to work very hard to justify their demand on my time. Further the author himself had imp ...more
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, read-2020
Note that this is the Galley Buddies' black cover limited edition - if I can find a decent quality cover image I will add it.

Let me start with a disclaimer - I am not normally a fan of fantasy fiction, and this book is unashamedly set in a fantasy world, with many familar fantasy tropes. So I am not the best person to judge it, particularly relative to other fantasy writers - I read it because as a Galley Beggar subscriber I read all of their books. For all that, I found it a very enjoyable boo
Aug 10, 2020 rated it liked it
When I was a young man in my teens and twenties (so, about 35-40 years ago), I read a lot of fantasy novels. It was never a conscious decision, but by the time I hit thirty, I had stopped reading those books and moved on to other things. This was purely a sign of my changing tastes in what I read: I didn’t have to plan it and I wasn’t even really aware of the change at the time and only realised when I looked back at what I was and had been reading.

Mordew is a fantasy novel. So, it represents a
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-read-books
This review was conducted based on an uncorrected advance proof, provided by the publisher (who I am very grateful to!). It originally appeared on my blog,

Before young hero Nathan's journey even begins, we find ourselves beguiled with promises of mysteries and wonders. We have a cast of characters, as well a list of some of the strange sights we will see as we turn the pages. The character descriptions have a wonderfully poetic, offbeat logic to them – one
Felicity Bentham
Jun 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Alex Pheby has created something incredible in Mordew. I don't read a lot of fantasy so I may be wrong but Mordew is truly unlike anything I've ever come across, it feels like a disservice to make the obvious comparisons to Gormenghast. It's so much more than that, the first of a trilogy Mordew follows the story of Nathan Treeves - a slum dwelling 13 year old living in the city of Mordew ruled over by the mysterious Master. I was fortunate enough to receive an advance proof so unillustrated but ...more
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
Early Teens Fantasy

Alex Pheby's Mordew is a good example of how the smoke and mirrors of publishing in the UK can create something from very little. It is an extremely well made book with wonderful cover art as well as elegant packaging as well as bookmarks and lungworms. All very impressive and is a great example of a book that will look great on the shelf as well as a gift.

The problem is that the several clearly paid for reviews on this site are masking a fundamentally average and at times t
Electra Nanou
Aug 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Uniquely dark and visceral. Beautiful book. I love how much thought and detail went into the plot, characters, and universe as a whole. I did get lost in a few rather dense passages, but that's okay. Really looking forward to the next book.
Steve Walsh
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
At the start of the book Alex Pheby gives us a map, a list of the people in the book, a list of the weird things we will come across, and a pointer to the back of the book where all mysterious things are explained. Mordew is a story about a boy, a Master, a Mistress and a dead God. The boy, Nathan Treevs, needs to work for the Master so that he can buy medicine to cure his father of the Lung Worm. The Master needs Nathan to fight the Mistress. Alex Pheby’s imagination takes us on a fantastical j ...more
Nov 12, 2020 added it
Alex Pheby’s Mordew is the first in a trilogy set in a city ruled by The Master, swarming with slum kids, thieves and monsters. This city has been built over the dead body of God and His corpse has a fantastical effect on mud, creatures and effects a “weft” of magical potential into which some can tap through a process called “Sparking”. Mordew is not the kind of place to raise a family. If they escape the ravaging lung worm then they could stray into the Living Mud - an oozing substance that sp ...more
Andrea Barlien
As the first volume of a SFF trilogy this book sets us up for the conflict to be addressed in the following two volumes. A lot of context is supplied and back story must be explained and in some parts this can feel a bit heavy handed but it’s important to keep in mind that this is one of three and can not ‘stand alone’. The Interlude of Anaximander is one such part - without it we would be lost but it can come off a little clumsy at the start. By the end of the Interlude I was thankful for it. T ...more
Sep 08, 2020 rated it liked it
A solid fantasy debut, but this is a genre where I'm very clear on my own preferences and tend to be very picky. RTC
John Rennie
Sep 11, 2020 rated it liked it
I had high hopes for this book. The marketing blurb sounded terrific - a city built over the dead body of God. The problem is that it's not very well written.

An enormous amount of work has gone into the world building. There is a glossary almost as long as a novel that describes the world in great detail. I found the world building fascinating and the world very convincing, so in this respect the book is excellent. The problem is that the story itself wanders around all over the place will littl
Julie Morris
Sep 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I can tell you exactly when I fell in love with this book. It was on page 13, before I even got to the start of the story and I was reading the Dramatis Personae. I came across a reference to ‘a family of elephants, unfamiliarly labelled,’ and that was it. I knew then that this was an author in whose imagination I was really going to enjoy getting lost. (Although, I’m not happy at how the unfamiliarly labelled elephants’ story turns out, Mr Pheby!)

Mordew is an amazing feat of a novel. Dense, ric
Will Chin
In the third act of The Matrix (1999), Morpheus is captured by Agent Smith, and it is up to Neo and Trinity to rescue him. Before charging into the office building where Morpheus is held, however, they decide to acquire some guns — lots of guns. So Neo and Trinity plug themselves into a simulation, which is represented on screen as this vast, empty white space. Then rows upon rows of guns appear seemingly out of nowhere, and Neo and Trinity proceed to arm themselves.

This scene is basically what
Matthew Mansell
Nov 20, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
There’s a man that regularly comes in an hour before close and drinks two ciders in that time always paying in cash four pounds each please, five minutes before close will plod over to the toilets and then hurriedly scamper out as if to be still inside just one minute after close presents some sort of existential dilemma that he can’t leave and must stay inside until opening the following morning, and maybe he rambles on about this fantasy trilogy he’s written, about a boy in a world where GOD I ...more
Stuart Dredge
Sep 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It subverts the 'young naive magical bloke comes into his powers' tropes in lots of fun ways, it's refreshingly dark, and the world building is marvellous - a floating glass road; 'living mud' capable of spawning life; firebirds that constantly smash into the sea-walls trying to breach the city's defences and more.

At first I thought this was going to be in the same vein as the Rotherweird trilogy by Andrew Caldecott, which I loved. Not quite: this is much less whimsic
Clio (Bemuzed)
Sep 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
sadly quite a disappointing read for me.
I'm not fully sure about what didn't work for me but from the get go I found it difficult to get through big chunks of this book. My pace for going through this one was incredibly slow even though there is definitely enough happening in this book.
In the beginning I quite liked the world and the nitty gritty atmosphere to it. I liked how Nathan would hurt from using the spark and the mounting desperation he felt as he was trying to save his father, all the
Radan Petrović
Aug 22, 2020 rated it did not like it

I honestly don't know how this got published.
Masturbatory and pointless. The author got too caught up in his supposed clever world building to actually write a good book.

It's not really a story, or at least not a decent one. Extremely bloated, unfocused and dull.
Much like the main character...

I kept reading, hoping for something to redeem the book for me, but after seventy or so chapters of stuff happening to this dumb, ignorant dullard, I just gave up.

If you're someone who likes fant
Michelle Moorhouse
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow! I had a small inkling that Mordew would be a darker fantasy due to the references to Gormenghast mentioned in the press but I had absolutely no idea it would be so grimy, different and engaging. I absolutely loved it! You can't help but be compelled by the characters and their stories. I am so glad that it will be a trilogy because one book (no matter how weighty) is just not enough to quench my thirst for the world and its history. An excellent read and I am eagerly anticipating the next i ...more
Stephen F Carr
Sep 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Ok I’ve given this book three stars. The paradox is that in the back of my mind is that it deserves five. Why the discrepancy then? The writing is amazing but painfully intense. There are incredible characters but I couldn’t warm to them. All through my reading I was beset by these contrary thoughts.

The actual book published by Galley Beggar Press is beautifully put together. The book exudes quality in its making.

This is the first part of a trilogy and I will stick with it and await the second
Nov 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Not quite sure what to think of this one. It feels like the start of a magnum opus, the world it creates is fantastic, and the prose is lovely. On the other hand, it's not a self-contained narrative and it ends in >100 pages of lore in a glossary which reveal far more than is revealed in the story thus far. This is several books worth of plot in one, but it still doesn't feel like a full thing.

All that said, it motivated me to keep reading in the middle of what felt like a political apocalypse w
Aug 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Haven't read fantasy in a while. I enjoyed the ubiquity and abundance of fantastical elements from the start. Towards the end I did struggle to grasp what was happening a bit as everything got grander in scale and a bit messier, but I imagine some parts are intentionally mysterious for resolution in sequels. The glossary is interesting, I didn't consult it much in the first half of the book, but in the second half I read more and enjoyed the context beyond Nathan's story it provided.
Julie Furnell
Sep 01, 2020 rated it liked it
I wanted to really like this. I think the author was going for a Gormenghast feel and he nearly got there but there was too much clever writing and floweriness. Showing off world-building is all very well and yes there's rats and it's an awful place but please get on with the plot. Having said that, if there's a sequel and I'm assuming there will be, I'll probably read it and hope the writer gets the plot fizzing a bit.
Oct 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
The author has created a unique & intriguing world that is centred in the city of Mordew. He keeps you unsure on your bearings and leaves much unexplained and vague leading you to be confused at times on what this world is he has created. I enjoyed this aspect of the novel as it lets you enjoy the plot whilst giving you the feeling of a mysterious world surrounding you, one that will reveal itself slowly and with great skill. ...more
Nov 10, 2020 rated it liked it
For all its 600 pages this seemed a strangely insubstantial book. Lots of characters, lots of things happening, plenty of inventiveness but nothing with any weight. There's nothing really here to inspire any intellectual or emotional involvement. Maybe things will get better with subsequent volumes but I'm really not sure if I care enough to find out.
Sep 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
This is a wonderfully detailed story with some fantastic world building. I liked the way the story expanded slowly from the slums into the merchant quarter and then to the master, it introduced you to the world very naturally and I felt I understood the “spark” and how it worked.
Lady R
Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved it! Brilliant fantasy which ended on a tense high note to leave me waiting for the next instalment. Alex Pheby is a phenomenal writer.
Sep 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a pearl. I loved it. It has little plot twists you don't see coming. It seeps magic from everywhere like the Living Mud that is so present in the book. Absolute must read!
Oct 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A solid 4.5; it‘s unlike anything I‘ve read before.
Nov 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
rich and imaginative, I'm already looking forward to #2
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Alex Pheby is a British author and academic.

His latest book is Mordew, the first in a fantasy trilogy.

His second novel, Playthings, was described as “the best neuro-novel ever written" in Literary Review. The novel deals with the true case of Daniel Paul Schreber, a 19th-century German judge afflicted by schizophrenia who was committed to an asylum. In 2016, Playthings was shortlisted for the £30,

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