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'Written in the Blood', Stephen Lloyd Jones

Showered with plaudits for this debut novel, 'The String Diaries' (Headline, 2013), Stephen Lloyd Jones was always going to have his work cut out maintaining the standard he had set. But he has, if anything, outdone himself with his second offering, 'Written in the Blood'.

Balancing darkness and redemption, 'Written in the Blood' offers a spiralling trip across a beautifully rich amalgam of geography and history, from the top of the modern Swiss Alps, across the Navada Desert, and down to the seedier backstreets of nineteenth century Budapest. Lloyd Jones’ takes his readers on a fast-moving, thought-provoking, and ultimately very human journey, in the course of which his heroes and his villains mature alongside one another, blurring the traditional boundaries between good and evil, each asking very similar questions: Who among us has the right to sit in judgement? Should the sins of the father really be inherited by the son? And are any of us truly beyond the bounds of salvation?

Reminiscent of some of Dan Simmons earliest work, with perhaps a hint of Daniel Easterman’s darker novels, yet composed in much sharper, cleaner prose than either, 'Written in the Blood' shines a light into some of the darker corners of history, and the human soul. In parts historical mystery, in others an thoroughly modern tale, it promises to confirm what many already suspected: that Stephen Lloyd Jones ranks as one of Britain’s most promising young writers, who can be relied upon to both thrill and chill in equal measure.

'Written in the Blood' will be published by in hardcover by Headline on 21 November 2014.

A version of this review first appeared in 'The Big Issue Australia' (Edition 472), 18 November 2014.

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