The Dark Volume is the sequel to The Glass Books Of The Dream Eaters, which I came across a couple of years ago when Penguin had the brilliant idea of publishing it in weekly instalments: I paid a ‘subscription’ and a chapter arrived in the post each week for 10 weeks. It was a brilliant idea because The Glass Books… is the kind of adventure that would once have been described as ‘rollicking’, and with each chapter ending in a cliffhanger, it lent itself perfectly to serialisation.
If you had to ascribe a genre to Dahlquist’s books, I suppose it would be fantasy. They’re set in a time and place that resemble Victorian England, where a sinister cabal is plotting to acquire wealth and power using a diabolical invention. Three disparate characters team up to try to foil them: an unworldly but resourceful heiress, an honourable German doctor and a ruthless freelance assassin. The books basically consist of a series of chases, with the heroes finding themselves in one perilous situation after another.
If it all sounds rather silly – well, it is, but it’s skilfully written and utterly absorbing. (I was reading it on a train this afternoon and almost missed my stop.) When I’ve finished, I’ll doubtless go back to my Hornbys and McEwans, but for now I’m thoroughly enjoying my change of diet.