‘If only she wouldn’t struggle so, the damned girl. If only she wouldn’t scream then he wouldn’t have had to bind her mouth. If only she would be quiet and calm and biddable, he would never have had to put her in a sack. And if only he had not had to put her in a sack, she could have walked and he would not have had to put her over his shoulder and carry her to the Jew.’

There are only five members remaining of the Oversight, the secret society that patrols the borders between the magical world and the mundane. When a girl is brought to their headquarters in London, it seems that they might finally have found a new recruit. But the girl is a trap, and as the borders between the natural and the supernatural begin to break down, the Oversight’s enemies begin to close in.

This is the first book in an ambitious new fantasy trilogy. The second book was released last year and the final instalment is due out early in 2017. It is a sprawling gothic fantasy, with elements of folklore, fairytale and myth. Fletcher takes these well-known characters and tropes and manages to shape them into something exciting and new.

There is a lot going on in this novel. There are a great number of characters to try and keep track of and a fair number of storylines to try to untangle, which at times slows down the plot. But overall this is an entertaining and enjoyable story.

As mentioned before, there are a lot of characters in this book, but Fletcher gives each of them enough backstory and unique characteristics to make you sympathise with them – even the villains. Unfortunately, because of the size of the cast, you might not get to spend as much time with your favourite characters as you would have liked. I, for example, would have liked to find out more about Mr Sharp, who was one of the most interesting characters in the novel. For now, I’ll just have to keep hoping that he has a starring role in the next two books.

The world Fletcher has created is imaginative if at times a bit clichéd. Victorian London is set beside an underworld of hidden monsters who would wreak havoc on humanity without the intervention of the Oversight. At times it felt as though the Victorian setting was a bit of an afterthought, and there could have been more period details thrown in to make the world feel more complete.

Fletcher does use a few clichés, particularly about the monsters’ weaknesses, and it’s a shame that they outweigh the original details he has created here. I hope that, in the rest of the trilogy, he finds the confidence to let his imagination go wild.

Despite its flaws, I did enjoy this book. It was dark and atmospheric, clever and easily readable, with some flashes of black humour to top it all off. Fletcher does a good job of creating believable tension, so you can never be sure if the characters are going to survive their struggles unharmed.

The book starts with a bang, before losing its way a little in the middle, becoming bogged down with its large cast and varying storylines, but make sure you stick around for the ending; there are enough tantalising glimpses of what is to come to make sure you return for the rest of the trilogy.

A fun, entertaining adventure fantasy; you won’t long have finished this book before you’re reaching for the sequel. I would especially recommend it to fans of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.