Christoph Marzi (link is in German) is a German author. He writes fantatstic fiction and made his debut with Lycidas, followed by Lilith and Lumen, together forming the Lycidas trilogy.
The story revolves around Emily Laing, an orphan growing up in London. Together with her best friend Aurora Fitzrovia, she gets pulled into the going ons of the Ancient Metropole, which is very much like London Below from Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman).
Emily discovers that she has a special talent and the alchemist Mortimer Wittgenstein is assigned as Emily’s teacher. Their adventures take them to Hell, encountering rats, angels, the devil himself and other more or less mythical creatures.
The writing is a bit long winded, using phrases more complicated than necessary (and to no literary goal other than sounding sophisticated, at least that’s what it seemed like) and obviously loving outdated words and phrases. The outdated part can be justified by having Wittgenstein as the narrator, as he was born in the late 19th century. But still, it was a bit difficult to read.
Also, although Wittgenstein is the narrator, he can detail happenings that only Emily and not he experienced (which is explained toward the ending of the third book, which might be a little late for it).
Also, Marzi changes tenses more often than a model changes clothes during a show (and more quickly, too). He also jumps in time, but not congruent with the tense jumps, so I don’t really have an explanation for that.
But once you get used to his style, you can concentrate on the story. And damn, you need to concentrate on that. Because it’s complicated. Plot twist follows plot twist follows conspiracy follows betrayal. Honestly, I’m not sure that I got all the turns. I’m afraid that at some point in time I just kept going in one direction, while the plot went in another. But fear not, we met up later again.
Apart from the confusion, it’s a good story.
Marzi relies heavily on other influences, authors like Neil Gaiman, but also musicians like Irving Berlin and movies like Moulin Rouge!. He quotes a lot of works like that, but never seems to actually copy anything. He always manages to transform it into something new.
He also uses catchphrases a lot, most notably, “Don’t ask!” (Wittgenstein), “There are no coincides.” (almost all main characters) and “Come what may.” (Emily and Aurora).
What really kept me reading where the characters. Very sweet and likeable. And through the clever use of the catchphrases, you quickly feel like you know them.
I don’t know if I can wholeheartedly recommend it. Usually, when I recommend a book, it’s because I think that almost everybody who likes to read, will gain something from it, have something they like about it. With these books, I can recommend them to certain people only. People, who are able to not care about good prose that much. People, who go for characters more than for plot. People, who would recognise the references to the different influences.
I myself am not sure, if I want to read something else written by Marzi. Maybe I’ll have a look at the things, when I’m in the bookstore and see if it gets me again.