Jon Mayhew

The sister is a knife-thrower in a magician's stage act, the brother an undertaker's assistant. Neither orphan knows of the other's existence. Until, that is, three terrible aunts descend on the girl's house and imprison her guardian, the Great Cardamom. His dying act is to pass the girl a note with clues to the secret he has carried to his grave. Cardamom was one of three explorers on an expedition to locate the legendary Amarant, a plant with power over life and death. Now, pursued by flesh-eating crow-like ghuls, brother and sister must decode the message and save themselves from its sinister legacy.

`Mortlock is a thrilling adventure from start to finish' SciFi Now

'a rich tapestry depicting a series of convincing worlds... It has a breathtaking pace [and] characters we hope to meet again' The Observer

'If you are looking for a creepy chill to your summer reading, stop right here...Beware - magic and mystery awaits!' National Geographic Kids

'An enjoyable, fast-paced adventure full of dark humour that manages to be both scary and fun' Bookfest
Amy, from Copthall School, Barnet

Josie is a knife-thrower in a magician’s magic act. She and her brother Alfie go through lots of dangerous adventures. These terrifying aunts, who turned out to be meat-eating ghouls, are chasing throughout the book. What can Josie and her brother do to escape? Throughout the adventures, the two try and find out what the riddle means. Josie has a guardian, Edwin, but everyone calls him the Great Cardamom. Will he survive, or will he be going down? 

Ayesha, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

The novel is set in Victorian London and follows the story of orphaned twins Josie and Alfie as they try to uncover the mystery of a secret connected to their past, that has been passed on to them in a note from Josie's dying guardian.


Jon Mayhew starts the story off at break neck pace and keeps it up throughout with engaging twists and turns. Josie is a very likeable heroine, and her relationship with her brother Alfie, who she initially regards as annoying, develops sweetly as they are forced to rely on each other. Alfie is a engaging hero, overcome by his strange ability and excited about his new-found twin. The villains – the gruesome Aunts and their master Lord Corvis – are excellent yet sinister and macabre.


Mayhew gives us an insight in Victorian England, especially through Alfie’s words. The descriptions of the Victorian locations and characters seem extremely real. My most memorable locations include Lord Corvis’s home, the queer circus, and the mysterious graveyard. Jon Mayhew obviously put a great deal of time and effort into researching this story. The majority of the story is written in dialogue which is interesting; through this we start to understand the real depths of the characters. These were written in such a way that I had a running movie in my head. The quotes and extracts from English folk songs interweave into the story very well.        


This story is aimed at older children maybe around 10+, however young adults may enjoy it as well. The story features dark scenes, ghouls and also some character death. As such, it might be a little too much for younger readers.

Farah, from Copthall School, Barnet

This book is called Mortlock and it is written by Jon Mayhew. It is set in 1854. The story takes place in London. The main character is called Josie and she lives with her uncle The Great Cardamom. They both work at the circus and Josie is a great knife thrower.


After the death of Josie’s uncle, Josie goes off on an adventure with her twin brother, Alfie, who she has just found out about. They are off to find the Amarant, a powerful flower that is able to kill the life and make the dead come alive; and destroy it, as their uncle told them to do so. The twins face hard times and struggle a lot. They are always nearly there but the closer they get to a right explanation the further they are from finding the Amarant.


From my point of view, the book has mostly good parts but a few bad. My favourite part of the book is when the twins work together to pass their troubles.  The part I didn’t quite like was the ending ....


But overall the book was a great book. The text and the scenes the author uses are very good because they drag you into the book and make you want to read more.

Hazel, from The Mount School

Mortlock is a very thrilling book that has loads of interesting things happening all the time. The author of Mortlock is called Jon Mayhew. Because of all the excitement the book never gets boring and there is always lots of action that makes you want to carry on reading the book. The book is also very violent and almost all of the characters die. Most of the parts where the characters die are very gory but are also very well written.


The characters all have a back story behind them and none of them has a boring life. The main character is called Josie. Every time a new character appears in the story the writer gives you a lot of information about them. He tells you a lot about the way they look and act and sometimes a little bit about their life. He tells you a lot about each character but in a small amount of text. We know that it will get boring if you have to read several pages about one character.


The book has a very good story line. The main objective is to find Mortlock and ask where the Amarant is. You are not to sure what the Amarant is until you read more of the book. It is shocking when you find out what the Amarant is, but it also makes the book even better. The main thing that you know about the Amarant is that it is a strange flower that gives you eternal life.


Overall this book is amazing and the story line is really good. All of the detail helps you to really imagine what’s happening in the story.  The book is so thrilling that you just want to keep reading so you can find out what happens in the end. I think that this is one of the best books that I have ever read and I am sure that I will read the book again.

Min , from University College School London

Mortlock by Jon Mayhew is a fine read, but unfortunately not to my liking. Why? The clichéd plot of Mortlock, including ghouls and encounters with coffins and worm-ridden skeletons, and which seems to consist of Alfie and Josie (the main characters of Mortlock, in which Alfie is the assistant of an undertaker and Josie, who performs a knife-throwing act under the name “Artemis the Huntress”) escaping from their captors and their ominous aunts who we are led to believe are ghouls, who feast on the dead.


However, Mayhew recreates a very lively Gothic atmosphere of 19th-century England with many colourful minor characters such as Jacob Carr, the trustworthy Thames boatman, and the story seems a little more believable. The problem is, even though I understand the story is fiction, set in a non-fiction background, I still prefer fictions that are still believable, and whilst I normally like to read other Gothic stories such as The Madman’s Manuscript which I greatly enjoyed reading and studying in school, Mortlock, in my opinion, is a few steps short of The Madman’s Manuscript; it may also be that there are many similar books to Mortlock, set in Gothic England - for example the Parliament of Blood by Justin Richards. Mortlock fails to stray from the pack, as the reader finds the plot and characters a little clichéd.


To Mayhew’s credit, the story moves at a breathtaking speed, which has two effects. The first is a positive one - because the story moves so quickly, you really seem to get more interested in it and it becomes more captivating; on the other hand, as it moves so fast, sometimes, in some parts of the story, you feel lost as if the book is progressing without you fully understanding the plot, which is indeed complex.


Despite my criticisms, it is a fact however that Mortlock is a fine book, and that my opinion is in fact my own, as I have my own preferences in a book, and for other people it may be that Mortlock falls into their preferences. Mortlock will leave such a reader in suspense from the continuous deaths under suspicious circumstances, and the ghoul’s frightening feasting of the dead and I guarantee for such a reader that this book is for you. For me however, it was a rather tepid read.

Molly, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Mortlock is about Josie, a knife thrower in a circus, and her journey to discover the secret of the Amarant, a flower with the power of life and death. Josie finds her brother Alfie, and together they embark on a voyage, to seek the flower. They encounter many dangers, like the crows, and the Aunts, three evil women that can transform into bloodthirsty birds.


Jon Mayhew really gets into depth with details, and it was as if I was really there in the story. It was dark, and it explored both emotional and other, more evil sides of sibling relationships.


I really enjoyed reading this, because it really showed a clear journey, from hatred to brotherly/sisterly love. On a scale of one to ten of “unputdownability”, I would rate it nine, because there was a small part which I personally found too gory for my liking. I finished the book in two days, I really liked it and would read it again.

Nicole, from Copthall School, Barnet

Mortlock is about a young girl called Josie who finds herself on a quest to find Mortlock (a man); it is written by Jon Mayhew. The novel is set in a circus in 1854 with a magician, the guardian of Josie, who had lots of dark secrets. Josie who will soon find out the darkest secret which he has hidden from her all her life. The adventure begins when three evil, old ladies, who you could say each has a wing under their sleeve, knocking on the door, asking for the magician named Cardamon.


My favourite part of the novel is when Josie meets her lost twin brother Alfie who is an assistant, who helps prepare the dead for their graves.


Overall, my opinion of this book is that it is an adventurous, mysterious and a fantastic novel. It is also a book which would be hard to put down for people who like action. 

Samuel, from University College School London

It was just an ordinary day when Josie was performing her knife-throwing act. Her guardian ‘the famous Cardamom' and Josie were surprisingly visited by three ‘aunts' who are really ghouls who feast on the newly dead. Their evil master Corvis has sent them on a mission to find an extremely powerful object, which they think Cardamom knows the whereabouts of.


Cardamom was one of the first people to find this vital object. In the process of Cardamom's death he hands over a note to Josie in which lie the clues for the secret he carries to his grave. Josie escapes the house to look for one of her uncle Cardamom's colleagues (another performer). He leads Josie to her brother who she had no idea about.


Now it is all down to these two siblings to complete the mission and lead their lives to safety. What do they do and how do they do it?


This is an amazingly dark horror story which will force you to keep reading wherever you are. The pace of the story made me want to continue reading as soon as I started it. It gets you shivering at the edge of your seat and it will make you feel like the brother and sister are closer to you than you think and that you will support them and want them to succeed more than they do.


It is an incredible story and I would recommend it is suitable for early teenagers up to twenty year olds.

Seeta, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

Mortlock is a fantasy adventure story about a girl and a boy, set in Victorian London. When Josie Chrimes’ guardian dies, she finds herself in the middle of an adventure with a long lost brother, three terrible crow-like ‘Aunts’ and a mysterious object with extraordinary power, called the Amarant. However, evil Lord Corvis is also looking for the Amarant…


I enjoyed reading Mortlock, and found it enjoyable and fun. I wanted to read on and find out what happened at the end.  The plot was fast moving and the language was descriptive, I could imagine what was being described a lot of the time and could vividly imagine several scenes in my head, such as a particular one in a graveyard near the end. I found that the overall style, plot and language of the book was not that complex, but this added to the effect of the story.


I would generally recommend this story for children aged 10-11 and younger, though older children may enjoy it as well, who like adventure, fantasy and a bit of gore. However, some scenes may scare younger readers. Josie Green is a likeable kind of protagonist, I could sympathise with her such as when she first met her brother (Alfie) for the first time but could still laugh at the situation. However, she also made mistakes, such as with the circus. I liked how Josie’s relationship with her brother changed and progressed throughout the book.


I liked the opening chapter of the book, as it got my attention. You were left wondering what was happening and when you got to the present (of the story) you could link what happened in the first chapter to the plot of the book. I also liked how the author set the story up, instead of just telling us the background of the story he showed us.