The Wicked Cometh
By Laura Carlin
The Wicked Cometh is set in 1831 in London.
The poor and vulnerable of the city are disappearing with increasing frequency and the streets are no longer safe even for those who know the secrets.
During these troubled times Hester White is presented with an opportunity to better her station in life and take herself away from the danger of the streets but in doing so she may have placed herself in more danger than ever.
When I first chose to read this I have to admit it was definitely a case of judging a book by it’s cover and why not when the cover is so beautiful? Luckily The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin was an intriguing read as well.
Each chapter began with a stunning illustration of a flower to make this book even more visually impressive.
The Wicked Cometh begins with a newspaper article from Tuesday 13th September 1831. The newspaper article is about a missing man, one of many in a series of disappearances among the poorer citizens of London.
“This newspaper has taken not that the past month has been remarkable for the prevalence of cases where men, women and children are declared missing, scarcely a week passes without the occurrence of an incident of this type.”
The main character of this book Hester White was brought up in Lincolnshire with her loving parents and her earliest memories of London are tied up with memories of her parents.
“Do you think you know London? They say it’s the finest city in all of Europe. Perhaps you stood and marvelled at the dome of St Paul’s? Or took a ride on a passenger craft and wove your way past the wherries and steamers as the great Thames carried you to the heart of the city beneath the shadows of Blackfriars bridge. And then, having paid your half-crown to the driver on the box, did you jounce along in a hackney carriage on your way to Vauxhall, humming a catchy little ditty? Or perhaps took a seat on Shillibeer’s omnibus instead. Did you go from Paddington to the Bank, stopping at The Unicorn for beefsteak with oyster sauce?
Because that’s all there is to know about London, isn’t it? Well, that is what I once thought.”
However, Hester now knows that this London is not the one presented to everyone. She is now 18 years old and an orphan. Her parents died within a few months of each other and for the past six years she has been living with her father’s gardener Jacob and his wife Meg . She calls them aunt and uncle at their request and life is very different from her former life in Lincolnshire.
“My London isn’t the one Papa visited, or the one you think you might know; of that I am certain.”
Hester and the others live in an undesirable area of London where the houses are crowded together and little daylight filters through no matter what time of day it is. The smell from the gutters permeates everything and people of all kinds are crammed together. The place she lives now is simply a small room with a brick and dirt floor.
Things are not easy in this new life. Jacob drinks most of their money away and then takes his troubles out on Meg’s face and recently he has begun to turn his unwelcome attentions towards Hester.
Hester’s one hope of escaping comes from news Meg obtained of a cousin of Hester’s who was meant to be travelling to London in the company of drovers from Lincolnshire. However, every day Hester has gone in search of him and each time the search has been fruitless.
One day whilst looking for him Hester gets knocked down by a coach. The gentleman inside is a doctor named Calder Brock and he takes Hester back to his home to tend to her wounds.
Whilst there Hester is offered an opportunity that could lead to her getting out of her situation in London. In order to get this situation though she has to pretend to be something she is not but is her new situation more dangerous than it seems? Can she trust anyone in her new life?
The Wicked Cometh was well-written and intriguing, a great first novel.
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