I received a free physical copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.
London, 1890. Captain John Hardwick, an embittered army veteran and opium addict, is released from captivity in Burma and returns home, only to be recruited by a mysterious gentlemen’s club to combat a supernatural threat to the British Empire.
This is the tale of a secret war between parallel universes, between reality and the supernatural. A war waged relentlessly by an elite group of agents, unsung heroes whose efforts can never be acknowledged, but by whose sacrifice we are all kept safe.
The Lazarus Gate is a work of fantasy fiction that follows Captain John Hardwick as he attempts to immerse himself back into civilisation following time spent locked away in captivity by the rebels in Burma. Upon arriving back in London, he is joined up the Apollonian Club – a secret society filled with high-ranking members of society as well as those who have served time in service to Queen and country. The Apollonian Club is an agency much like that of MI5 in that is undertakes tasks to help stop against any threat to Great Britain. It is exclusive and no-one must know about his involvement. As time passes within the club and he embarks upon his first and most crucial task set upon him, Hardwick comes into contact with information that turns his world upside down, information that is almost too hard to believe until theories are presented to him that make everything so much clearer. The Lazarus Gate is a novel about trust, loyalty, family, friendship and betrayal.
I enjoyed the concept of The Lazarus Gate as well as the setting that Mark Latham set this novel within. Victorian London is an interesting time to be alive and, coupled with the fantasy/science-fiction/steampunk vibes that Latham implements, this era becomes even more interesting. Though not a lot of the writing centres on the overall setting within this time period, there are clear ties to this era through general observations from our protagonist Hardwick. We are informed that people travel around in horse and cart, there are oil lamps and candles with the occasional building housing electricity, there are tailors, tophats, and canes. All of these remind me of this time-period and are usually clear indicators of this. I am glad that Latham mentioned the setting and era in this way, focusing on the more important issues at hand within the novel whilst subtly implementing all of this crucial information into the general prose. Latham however, does focus on setting at more important moments within the novel, in particular the scenes where Hardwick is facing off against the enemy and a wider picture is needed to fully understand the scope of the attacks made against Victorian London.
Without going into too much detail about the general concept, it was intriguing to see such fantastical elements within this time period merging old with new. Latham takes on elements of the Victorian era and puts a spin on them by focusing on the importance of the rise of spiritualists, fortune-tellers, and those with “the Sight” and fusing them with science fiction and impossible possibilities during that time. It adds a sense of awe as you realise how far these attacks are reaching and why they are being carried out in the first place. Latham also adds twists and turns through the combination of these genres culminating in the information that transforms Hardwick’s life. It was a nice little addition that I didn’t see coming but still made complete sense through the way that it was introduced
The character of Captain John Hardwick is a likable one. Hardwick is flawed (something that he is aware of and tries to hide), he is altogether too trusting of those around him, but he is also friendly and a hard-worker filled with fears at his past as well as where this new future will lead him. Hardwick develops well within this novel, overcoming his flaws and beginning to realise who he can and cannot trust – an issue that transpires across the entirety of the novel and plays as a major theme within the overall narrative. However, it is this inability to know who to trust that kept me on my feet throughout the novel, questioning each new character and the actions of all of the characters involved, especially when the truth about the Lazarus Gate and who the attackers are is revealed