Pub date: September 16, 2014
Shortlist, 2015 Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic
Longlist, 2016 Dublin International Literary Award
The Reckoning of Wm. Starling, Esq., a Foundling, concerning Monstrous Crimes and Infernal Aspirations, with Perpetrators Named and Shrouded Infamies Disclosed to the Light of Day, as Set Down by his Own Hand in this year 1816 . . .
From the acclaimed author of Daniel O’Thunder comes a rollicking, bawdy, and haunting novel about love and redemption, death and resurrection.
The great metropolis of London swaggers with Regency abandon as nineteen-year-old Will Starling returns from the Napoleonic Wars having spent five years assisting a military surgeon. Charming, brash, and damaged, Will is helping his mentor build a medical practice — and a life — in the rough Cripplegate area. To do so requires an alliance with the Doomsday Men: body snatchers that supply surgeons and anatomists with human cadavers.
After a grave robbing goes terribly awry and a prostitute is accused of murder, Will becomes convinced of an unholy conspiracy that traces its way back to Dionysus Atherton, the brightest of London’s rising surgical stars. Wild rumours begin to spread of experiments upon the living and of uncanny sightings in London’s dark streets.
Will’s obsessive search for the truth twists through alleyways, brothels, and charnel houses, towards a shattering discovery — about Dionysus Atherton and about Will, himself.
Steeped in scientific lore, laced with dark humour, Will Starling is historical fiction like none other.
“A magnificent new novel . . . a sumptuous Frankensteinian potboiler of knockabout slang, scientific lore, rollicking personalities and atmosphere thick as fog . . . While its themes of death, scientific perversion, classism and poverty may be dark as pitch, Weir's style and wit ensures the novel remains a boisterous, subversive romp.” — Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“An extraordinary rendition of life in Regency-era London . . . Weir has written a mystery worthy of every word while adding historical tidbits. . . Characters rollick and scheme through a plot as snaky as a London alley in a setting as powerful as a chamber pot tossed from a garret window. . . What Dickens might have written had he set loose Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll to explore the doomsday trade.” — Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
“Will Starling is a remarkably subversive novel. . . compelling and convincing. . . a novel that is at once rewarding and heartbreaking, satisfying on both intellectual and emotional levels. . . Will Starling - both the character and the book - is a splendid literary achievement, and a genuine pleasure.” — The Globe and Mail
“Weir’s writing is so springy, and his vision so panoramic, that you won’t care that the novel makes you feel as though you’ve got dirt under your fingernails just from reading it. Yet amid the muck, Will Starling also presents a ringing and surprisingly touching endorsement of science over legend and anecdote.” — National Post
“A rollicking good yarn with many twists and turns, Will Starling is a kaleidoscope of beautiful ghastliness. It’s a lot of fun and a tale well told.” —The Vancouver Sun
“Ian Weir crafts a wonderfully, thrillingly fun—if truly smelly and gross—romp. The cadaver trade, slit throats, stabbings, cudgelings, bodies dangling from nooses, a villainous, hubristic surgeon named Dionysus Atherton, Resurrection Men, Doomsday Men, and the Boggle-Eyed Man, unholy scientific exploration, a could-be zombie, a deranged housekeeper hooked on laudanum, and a clockwork of machinations fill Will’s clever and masterfully told ‘lurid tale.’” —The Winnipeg Review
“We’re in 1816 Regency London, and young Will, back from the Napoleonic war on the continent, is engaged in setting up a clinic in London’s dodgy Cripplegate. Weir has written a note-perfect historical novel of body snatching, murder and evil fun.”— The Toronto Star
“Starling is a charismatic, engaging narrator, and his personal connection to Atherton frames an underlying story of redemption and the legacy of ultimate power. A fascinating, well-researched exploration of surgery’s shift from disreputable butchery to medical science, shot through with an irresistible Frankenstein current.” — Booklist
“Mighty swinging bollocks, what a book! Will Starling drops you straight into the heart of London in the year 1816, detailing the sights, sounds, and smells (oh, the smells!) with an anatomist's eye for detail. Ian Weir's crackerjack novel is many things: a whodunit, a penny dreadful, a scrupulous historical narrative—but most of all and most simply, it is a rollicking, fire-balling, big-hearted book that's just a hell of a lot of fun to read. And by thunder, what more can a reader ask for?” — Craig Davidson, author of Cataract City
“I know of no one else in Canada today who writes like Ian Weir. Will Starling is a rollicking romp through the English language, an earthy, bawdy, brain-bending delight.” — Annabel Lyon, author of The Sweet Girl
“Will Starling is a sly, spirited hero who leaps off the page to take you on a riveting journey through London’s glorious, hair-raising underbelly – surgeons’ salons, gin shops, and the puzzle of Death itself – and straight into the nature of storytelling. Weir’s prose is both raw and lyrical; his evocation of Regency London, magnificent. Will Starling is a must read.” — Stacy Carlson, author of Among the Wonderful
“Ian Weir has an uncanny ear for the earthy London slang of Regency London. The characters are as engaging as the Artful Dodger or Fagin or Martin Chuzzlewit. This is not the polite England of Jane Austen or George Eliot, but an earthy romp through hangings, body snatchings, gin-soaked whores, and pitiful foundlings.” — Roberta Rich, author of The Harem Midwife and The Midwife of Venice