Book 1 of a trilogy, this volume (“Clutter”) is named after one of the central characters- a homeless street child who double-crosses an evil sorcerer and lives to see her adult livelihood become threatened by his desire for revenge. The other dominant figure in the book is Nathaniel Ruddock; a former royal physician struggling with a crisis of faith as he recalls his earlier life as a monk, and his decision at that time not to become a martyr at the hands of Oliver Cromwell.
Boteler’s patient research pays off in subtle ways. Description of the town, streets, and intersections is all polished, but the delicate way that knowledge of the local herbs and their uses for specific maladies is quite well crafted, as is the extensive treatment of diet and recipes. Such detail makes for a very easy and welcome read. The writing is solid, and the pace is impressive, with the two plot-strands expertly woven together in 68 short chapters. A map and perhaps a list of the main characters (and their interrelationships) would have added value to this book, especially as it is intended to be both a stand-alone read, as well as the start of a substantial series, with future books featuring the descendants of the main characters. But even so: great reading, suitable for public libraries, and most young audiences.