Wormwood

Wormwood

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Overview

G. P. Taylor's epic follow-up to the bestselling Shadowmancer

Panic fills the streets of London on a night in 1756 when the earth suddenly lurches forward and starts spinning out of control. Within moments, eleven days and nights flash through the sky, finally leaving the city in total darkness. Is the end of the world at hand?

Agetta Lamian fears so. She's the young housemaid of Dr. Sabian Blake, a scientist who has recently acquired the Nemorensis, the legendary book said to unlock the secrets of the universe. And what he sees through his telescope confirms what he has read: This disaster is only a sign of things to come. Agetta overhears Dr. Blake's prophecy that a star called Wormwood is headed towards London, where it will fall from the sky and strike a fatal blow.

Dr. Blake believes the comet will either end the world as he knows it or hearken a new age of scientific and spiritual enlightenment. But whatever the outcome, he must cope with the madness that grows in London as the comet approaches -- as well as with his fears that the Nemorensis' power could be clouding his own reason and drawing dangerous spirits to his door. Soon even Agetta seems to have been seduced by the book, and whom she ultimately delivers it to will determine much more than just her fate.

G. P. Taylor has woven another thrilling tale of Good vs. Evil, where fallen angels and dark spirits vie for allegiance during a time of treachery and deceit.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143057291
Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/28/2004
Edition description: Unabridged CD
Pages: 8
Product dimensions: 5.32(w) x 5.80(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 6 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

From the top-floor window of his large four-storey house on Bloomsbury Square Dr. Sabian Blake could see the farthest depths of space. He stared out into the night sky through the thick lens of his long brass telescope. He had watched the skies for the past week, and he was waiting -- waiting for the sign that he knew would come that night. The strange glow to the north had grown stronger and brighter, causing the stars to fade and never allowing the night to be truly dark. The full moon had burned blood red, lighting the streets with a warm crimson glow almost as bright as the sun.

Blake was an astronomer, doctor, scientist and a master of the Cabala. Every hour of every day was spent working out the times of the rising of the sun, the waning of the stars, and the phases of the moon as it crossed the sky. Blake turned the minute-glass as the sand timer spilled its soft white particles from one orb to the other, and on the fifty-ninth count he took great pride in waiting until the final grains of sand had trickled from the top chamber before carefully turning the large hour-glass. The dark wood of the hour-glass was decorated with serpent columns whose jewel eyes, gold teeth and carved scales shimmered in the moonlight. Blake checked each sand hour against the old brass clock that ticked and tocked laboriously next to the astrolabe on the ornate stone mantel of the empty fireplace.

Blake did Cabalistic calculations all night, every night. From his computations he knew that somewhere in the Twelfth House of the universe a sign would be given. The Nemorensis said so. The Nemorensis never lied; it was the only book to be trusted. It was said to touch the Nemorensis was to hold the secrets of the cosmos in your hands. No one knew where the book had come from, but many had died trying to find its secrets.

Now the Book of Nemorensis belonged to Blake. It was his by right, divine right as he often thought to himself. As he looked into deep space, he thought of the morning of the Feast of St Quirtle when, shortly after dawn, he had opened the parcel that a coachman had delivered to his door.

From the outset Blake had been suspicious of the coachman, because he had never seen someone who claimed such a low estate to be dressed so well. There was no hint of shabbiness in his neat black coat and clean boots. His pure white skin held no trace of hard labour, no trace of the London grime from horse muck and carriage grease. What had intrigued Blake about the man was the gold ring he wore on the middle finger of his right hand. It had a large red stone set in a gold mount cut into the shape of the sun. From one side a flaming trail formed the thick gold band that encircled his finger. Messenger the man was, coachman he was not!

But Blake's eyes had immediately been enticed by the shape and contours of the gift he was being offered. This was an epiphany, a gift to a wise man -- a wise man lured by a passion that he could feel rising from the soles of his feet and turning his stomach. It was an exquisite feeling, exciting and dangerous. Deep inside, Blake knew that the gift he was about to open would have life-changing possibilities.

The package had been tightly wrapped in a gold silk cloth and tied with red cotton braid, a colour so bright and vivid that it shimmered and looked fluid. There was nothing to say who had sent such a fine gift and the coachman had, when questioned, been vague as to how it had come into his possession and who had told him to deliver it.

"A man just stopped me in the street," he had said softly, avoiding contact with Blake's strong gaze and keeping the brim of his hat low over his eyes. "He waved his arms about like a madman, nearly frightened the horses to death. Foreign man, could hardly speak a word of the King's tongue. Never seen one that looked like him before. All he kept saying was Number 6, Bloomsbury Square. He gave me the package, Doctor Blake, pressed a guinea coin in my hand, and then turned and ran."

Blake questioned him further. "You know my name. Did the man tell you?"

"Everyone knows you, Doctor Blake. You are a man of letters," the coachman smiled. "In fact, I can now say that you are a man of parcels!" At that he laughed, handed over the heavy gift, and walked promptly to the carriage. Blake watched as he picked his way through the filth and puddles, jumped on to the driving seat and slowly drove the horse and carriage up the muddy road of Bloomsbury Square.

Without hesitation, Blake tore at the parcel, unable to wait until he got inside. He sat on the white marble steps and quickly pulled open the silk wrapping. It was then that he first looked upon the Nemorensis: a book so splendid in appearance that it caused his heart to beat faster. The thick leather cover was encrusted in gold leaf; the tatty pages were etched in sharp black that had faded with the years, scratched in small letters. He had never thought he would ever hold the Nemorensis, even if he believed it had existed. Now he knew -- now it was his!

Late one night, several weeks afterwards, Blake was leafing through the parchment pages, trying to glean every piece of knowledge; and there in the sixth chapter of the sixth book, on the final page, written by an unknown hand in the margin, he read the words: Wormwood...the bright star shall fall from the sky...and many will die from its bitterness.

From that day he had searched every corner of the heavens looking for the new star, convinced that this would be the sign that a new age was about to begin, a golden dawn to enlighten small, feeble human minds. Generations had spoken of its coming and had faded away before seeing the enlightenment. The illumination of the world was drawing near and he would be the first to see it, the first to tell the world.

Blake sipped a cup of hot tea and smiled to himself. He looked again through the lens of the telescope that rested on its fine oak tripod. The stars and planets remained the same, the universe was unaltered, in a few hours the night would be over and nothing would have changed. He stamped angrily on the wooden floorboards. "Blast, bother and gibbor. Will it ever come?" he asked himself impatiently, his words echoing around the empty room. He began to doubt his calculations and wondered whether by some chance he had predicted the wrong day, week, or even year. He looked again and more anxiously into the night, hoping against hope that somewhere in a far-off galaxy a new light had appeared.

It was midnight; far in the distance he heard the sound of St George's church clock chiming out the hour. Suddenly the house began to vibrate and shudder. The whole world lurched forwards, then backwards, and then spun even faster.

Blake heard a looking-glass drop and smash to pieces from a wall downstairs. Tiles cascaded from the roof to drop the four storeys, smashing like leaves of baked clay in the road below. Plaster fell from the ceiling. At any moment he thought the house would fall to the ground.

In an instant the stars vanished. Time and time again, the sun rose, then set; night became morning, then night again. Eleven suns came, followed by eleven moons, rising and setting from east to west. There was no way to understand what was happening. Blake held fast to the telescope and tripod, hoping that each jolt would be the last, hoping that each dawn would not blast into daylight then into night -- hoping that whatever was now striking the world would stop.

Then there was blackness -- a still, sharp blackness surrounded by complete silence. There was no more day and no more night. There was utter emptiness, as if the world was over and the universe had imploded, sucked into some vast dark hole in space. Blake stared through the eyepiece but saw nothing.

It was then that Blake became aware of the clamour and panic in the street. He could hear the screams from below as men and women grappled in the darkness, hanging on to the iron railings of the newly-built gardens. Blake could not see the window. He turned away from the telescope and edged the three feet across the room to where he knew the open window would be. The blackness was so deep, so intense, that it almost smothered and choked him. His feet tangled in the long belt cord of the thick, red dressing gown that he wore over his clothes to keep out the cold. It was cheaper than a fire or a warming pan, but now in the darkness he regretted his meagerliness and longed for even the faintest glimmer of firelight.

He fumbled his way to the window. In the street he could hear the cry of frightened horses stomping in the mud, their hooves nervously cracking against the stones. Far below him by the inn's gaslight he could see the terrified revellers spill out into the night.

The screaming grew louder and louder as the blind riot filled the streets. Pistol shots rang out as the militia fired recklessly into the darkness. The whole world seemed to be on the verge of madness.

Without any warning, a blinding flash filled the sky. Far to the east a shaft of pure white light penetrated the atmosphere. No one could escape its brightness as it cut across the heavens like a lightning bolt. London fell silent; the whole town waited. In his room, Blake managed to find his telescope. He looked to the skies and the shaft of light came again, and again, flashing brighter and brighter, piercing the darkness.

Blake saw through the telescope what he had been waiting for. High in the northeast at the crown of heaven he could see a star, but this was no ordinary star -- it was a sky dragon. Blake could clearly see a long white tail that streamed far behind the bright luminous head. A comet of such proportions the world had never seen before.

"Can it be true?" he wondered aloud as he rubbed his face nervously with his hands. "It can't be, I deceive myself," he said in a strong voice, hoping to bolster himself against the rising panic that now gripped his feet and crawled up to his knees. "But the Nemorensis said it is so. The comet is coming towards the earth," he muttered in disbelief. "The dragon is coming home!"

In the east the sun began slowly to rise. It was a quarter past midnight but the dawn had come. Blake chuckled to himself and shook his head. Outside, the panic had ceased; the crowds that had gathered in the street looked to the sky. The stunned revellers from the tavern wrapped soiled arms around each other in relief that the earthquake and sky-storm were over. They ignored the injured and the dying, and howled at the rising sun, which burnt bright against the fading black sky.

Blake could not contain himself and had the urge to shout the news of his discovery from the window to the gathering below. He danced around the room, banging and clattering on the bare wood floorboards and swirling his thick red dressing gown backwards and forwards like a pantomime dame. He danced and he laughed and he sang out loud: "Wormwood! Wormwood! Wormwood!" As he swirled he tripped and fell to the floor, wrapping himself tighter in his robe and laughing as he rolled around like some peculiar stuffed sausage. In the looking-glassed ceiling of the room he saw himself criss-crossed by shadows from the leaded pane of the window. He wanted to laugh until he was fit to burst -- tears rolled down his face as his belly ripped and roared with laughter that echoed against each wall, then faded as it escaped the open window at the front of the house. Only he could see the comet; it was Blake's Comet, the bringer of his new age.

Then Blake became aware that a sudden and deep silence had descended. The crowd had stopped looking at the sky, people were now staring to the open ground of Holborn and the fields that surrounded Lincoln's Inn. Far in the distance was the clatter of hooves banging against earth and stone; it was the growing fever of frightened horses. The beasts that had been left in the square quickly joined in, as if summoned by some unspoken call, kicking out at those who stood by, knocking one man from his feet with a blow to his spine that dropped him dead to the ground.

Echoing from Holborn came the sound of the horses approaching, neighing and snorting as they stampeded through the streets. Some still dragged the tattered and torn remains of the once fine carriages that they had pulled. Others ran free of rein or carriage rod as they kicked and bucked, as if to rid themselves of the unseen force that snapped and bit at their fetlocks. The stampede filled the street and moved through the gathered crowd on Holborn fields like a cavalry charge, cutting down all those that stood in its way. Over a hundred horses turned into the square -- grey, black and bay, once benign equines now transformed by fear, running for their lives.

Blake looked down from the window; he could offer no help. He shouted to the crowd but the noise of the horses drowned his words, and he banged his fists in despair against the window ledge. Within seconds the stampede engulfed all those who stood in its path. Their victims made very little noise -- no shouts of fear, no time to run. All that was left in the wake of the maelstrom was the broken flotsam of human bodies, a jetsam of cadavers washed up by a living tide. The only survivors were those who had clung to the railings, hidden in doorways or jumped into the basements of the tall row of newly built houses that overlooked the square. There they cowered in fear like so many rats packed into a barrel.

The reason for the horses fear quickly became apparent. Chasing the horses into Bloomsbury Square came a surge of a thousand dogs that appeared to spill from the alleyways, runnels and every corner of London. The air was filled with barking and snarling as they bit and snapped at everything in their path, controlled by a power beyond reason.

The panic was intense, palpable and beyond imagination. Children who had come into the street to see the spectacular sky now screamed as the pack scented out their victims. Everyone ran, scrambled up trees, jumped over fences or climbed the stonework of houses to get out of the reach of the hounds. Street dogs, fine spaniels of rich men, deck hounds from river barges and preened lap dogs ran together, roused by some atavistic hunger.

Blake looked on as a young boy scampered the length of Bloomsbury Square. He was no more than twelve years old; his shoeless feet carried him quickly over the mud, chased by several dogs that snapped at his heels and coat tails. He screamed as he ran. To his right and lying helpless on the floor was an old woman. She was surrounded by a pack of dogs that grabbed at her arms and legs and pulled her across the ground like a rag doll. The boy lunged for the low branch of a tree and, reaching out at full stretch, took hold and swung from the ground just as a large black mongrel jumped forward with bared teeth, trying to sink them into his flesh. Chaos covered the whole square as the dogs split into smaller packs to chase their victims into Gallon Place and Coptic Street. It seemed as if the whole of London was filled with the cries of people being savaged.

There was a sudden and loud banging on the door of Blake's house. The large brass tapping-handle was smashed repeatedly against the door plate, echoing through the hallway and up the circular staircase to the observation room. Blake looked out below. There in the street was Isaac Bonham, friend and Fellow of the Royal Society. He shouted loudly as he banged the door and tried to shake off a small brown deck hound that was gripping his leg.

"Blake, in the name of Hermes let me in!" he cried, the pain of the bite tingeing his voice. "Blake, shoot the thing! Let me in, do something!"

The dog let out a loud squeal as he kicked it against the iron railing of the house. But then three large mastiffs slowly walked into the square. They were wheezing and breathless, their mouths stained with fresh blood. They looked at Bonham, and even from such a distance they could smell his fear. Blake ran to the door, knowing he would have to move faster than the dogs if he were to save his friend. Down and down he ran, round and round, along each landing, his heart pounding in his chest.

Outside, the mastiffs stared at Bonham for several moments and then set off, covering the ground towards him a yard at a time. They slavered and growled as they ran, baring their large stained teeth, getting closer by the second.

Bonham screamed as he watched the dogs pounding down on him. He felt like a cornered fox about to be torn apart, ripped and eaten. "Quickly man, let me in!"

Blake stumbled over his feet, fell one length of the stairs and crumpled on the landing of the first floor. He got up and ran again. "Bonham, look out man, I'm here!" he shouted. He knew that he had one more flight and then the length of the hall before he got to the front door. And then panic hit him: the key, where was the key?

Outside, Bonham watched as the mastiffs pounded the mud with their paws, racing each other, their speed increasing with the prospect of a kill. He braced himself for what was to come. He squared his back against the door and drew a small flintlock pistol from his belt, knowing he would have only one shot, knowing he could not kill all three creatures. With both hands he aimed the gun at the hounds. Relentlessly they covered the ground before him. Bonham sighted the lead animal; it was larger than the others and led by a length. He aimed the gun a yard ahead and slowly squeezed the trigger. The hammer fell and powder exploded as the shot rang out, hitting the mastiff in the chest. The animal let out an ear-splitting howl but didn't even flinch. Bonham closed his eyes and waited. In thirty seconds he would be prey for the hounds.

Blake got to the door, which was made of thick oak, four times bolted and twice locked. He quickly began slide away the bolts -- one, two, three, four -- counting as he went. "The key, the key!" he shouted, searching frantically for its hiding-place. Then, looking down, he spied the key on a small hook. He grabbed it tightly and pushed it into the top lock, turning as fast as he could, knowing he had only seconds before Bonham's demise. He fumbled in his haste and the key dropped to the floor. He grabbed it again and quickly turned the bottom lock. It was stiff and hard to turn, but opened with a reassuring clunk. He slapped the handle and the great door swung open.

Bonham fell backwards into the hall, and Blake was confronted with the sight of the three hounds bounding towards him.

The wounded mastiff summoned all of its strength as it leapt from the road up the marble steps towards him. Seeing his fate, Blake quickly slammed the door and slid the bolts. There was a loud thud as the door vibrated and shook with the impact of the hound, but it held fast. He heard the dog drop to the ground.

There was silence in the sanctuary. Isaac Bonham stared at Blake.

"Never be that late again," Bonham panted. "One more second and I would have said goodbye to this life."

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Wormwood 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
luvdancr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
this book kind of dragged on for me, but it was interesting to some extent...It helps to know the symbolism of such things such as where wormwood comes from.
aadyer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great fun in an unusual setting of mid eighteen century London. Great plotting, some weak characters but the moral ambiguity is a welcome change. Good twists and turns and fun throughout. Flabby in some sections, some editing would be helpful but overall recommended
wyvernfriend on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting fantasy set in London of 1756 and a near earth collision with a comet. Featuring magic and several groups of people with a variety of motives. A better read for me than Shadowmancer.
P_S_Patrick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had this book on my shelf for quite a while before reading it. Once it was started though, I remember being firmly stuck in it until it was finished. While it is aimed at a young adults, the story is darker, the plot better, and the writing finer than in the other books popular with this audience, that I have read. I found the locales and characters, and events all quite immersing and more believable and convincing that those in Harry Potter or His Dark Materials. The atmosphere of the time is created with such flair that you get great mental images of the scenes as you go through the book. If I were to pick something that would improve the book, I would say that it should be twice as long, so that all the characters could be developed. But this would perhaps have made it more laborious to read for some, and taken away the pace from the great storyline. While I have been through thousands of pages since I read this book, I am actually really looking forward to getting into the sequel, Tersias, which I have on my shelf at the moment.
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Sixtoes More than 1 year ago
I was interested in the book just by the title of the apoclyptic comet, but there was no single character I ever attached to in the entire book and the story never really hooked me into wanting to know what would happen next. I only finished it out of a desire to put it away and pick up something else.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
There is a thrilling jump start to this book and the many events caused by the comet come to life while you read it. I couldn't put it down. The confusing parts are what mak the book. I wish Brig could have lived though.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A relatively new series that was declared better than Harry Potter, but which I rates just average. Having some exciting action and a excellent climax, this story line has much promise. It is about a Vicar that switches from serving God to Pyratheon and plots to take over the world (sounds familiar). Three opposing characters do all they can to stop him. It is the old plot of good verses evil in new clothing, but enjoyment can still be wrung from it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Amazing! So cool the character's are amazing, it has an old character as witch everyone know's who read Shadowmancer. It's realy exciting, a new angel has bean revealed. It's truly amazing it's highly recomemded for reader's that are interested in mystery, suspence, adventure, and more this book has almost every thing, it's the second part of 'Shadowmancer' with new character's, new time, and new placess, but also has an old character from 'Shadowmancer' that witch is one of my favorite character's in the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fans of Shadowmancer will be delighted with Wormwood, one more supernatural thriller from the dipped in blood pen of G. P. Taylor. Those who have not yet had the pleasure of hearing Davina Porter read an audio book will feel they've discovered a treasure. She's been doing voice performance for some 20 years, and copped last year's Audie Award. She can be sinister; she can be coy. She's always a treat to hear. With Wormwood Taylor returns us to 18th century London - the streets are not only dark but the story's dark, too. (Which his teenage readers find immensely appealing). Scientist Dr. Sabian Blake has come into possession of a timeworn but extremely powerful book. It holds all manner of lore and secrets, most importantly the foretelling of a comet, Wormwood, that will destroy all. Of course, the City of London is soon mayhem, and to compound matters Dr. Blake's young servant girl, Agetta, steals the book. Little did she know that she would then by haunted by all manner of evil doers, primarily a fallen angel who wants to live in Agetta's body. Wormwood is one more tale filled with mysticism, superstition, and dark forces, all to intrigue young listeners. - Gail Cooke
Guest More than 1 year ago
In Shadowmancer Taylor at least had a plot to keep readers interested, in this weak follow-up there are so many characters and so many weak story lines, that it was painful to actually get to the end. Although some interesting religious questions arise (will this comet be another 'great flood' to punish the unworthy?) Taylor deals with too much at once, and as a result is not able to really touch the reader. I would definitely stay away from this one, as there are plenty of other better fantasy books for young readers.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Dr. Sabian Blake is an astronomer and a student of the kabala. He is euphoric when the tome Nemorensis mysteriously falls into his hands. Inside are prophesies of the future.It says that the comet WORMWOOD is coming and ¿many will die from its bitterness¿. Sabian calculates when the comet will appear in the sky, but when it actually arrives night becomes day until the world is briefly engulfed in total darkness..................................... Simon wants the honor of being recognized for discovering the comet. He discusses this with a friend, but is overheard by his servant Agetta, who steals from him whenever she can. Agetta meets with Lady Flamberg, a woman who is more than she seems. Flanders arranges for Agetta to steal the Nemorensis, which the servant does. The forces of good and evil mobilize as the comet comes closer to earth. If evil wins, the comet will strike the planet. Only the common thief servant Agetta can decide the fate of humanity.......................... This work is targeted for young adults, but older readers will gain much pleasure also especially those who enjoy the Chronicles of Narnia and Lewis Carroll. G.P. Taylor is a wonderful storyteller who makes the unbelievable seems real while combining science fiction and fantasy into an action-packed yet character driven tale as the two key players learn life lessons. Sabian discovers that wanting power at the expense of his humanity makes him a magnet for dark forces while Agetta finds out that thievery is not the best way to survive especially since those same malevolent souls claim her as one of them. WORMWOOD is a fabulous urban fantasy with strong sci fi elements............................. Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a really good book and I can't wait for everybody else to get there chance in reading it.