Ian Beck

Bloomsbury (2009)

ISBN: 978-1-4088-0009-6

Reviewed by Mitenae

Eve, a young girl of seventeen, is only allowed out at night with her nearly blind guardian, Jack, to walk the streets of her Victorian London home. One day, she overhears a conversation between Jack and another man and resolves to run away to keep him safe. Taken in by Jago, a travelling performer, Eve soon discovers talents she never knew she had and begins to gain glimpses of her forgotten past.

Caleb comes to visit Pastworld, a recreation of Victorian London, with his father, one of the founders, Lucius Brown. Lucius is there on a free pass for a celebration, but has plans his son doesn’t know about. When Lucius is abducted and another man killed, Caleb is forced to flee in to an antiquated world. Taken in by Bible J, he finds himself in the care of Mr William Leighton who smells an opportunity to make some money out of the boy. But in the machine-fogged streets of London town, the Fantom lurks, once more killing, beheading and taking the hearts of his victims.

Pastworld is a story that has echoes of The Truman Show, where a character exists in a created world for the entertainment of others but instead of being able to watch it, they get to experience as if it was an amusement park where all the laws and customs of the Victorian age apply. I love the idea of this world and the sheer possibilities it contains. It’s a world I would have loved to have more time to explore the intricacies and life. But this story does not allow for that.

On its own, I like the story but the approach of having Sergeant Charles Catchpole put the story together as if it is an account of the events fell flat for me. Rather than deepening the story and adding layers for me it held the story back from fully exploring the world. Eve’s diary felt too deliberately created and really unnecessary for the story. It never felt like a true diary but instead feels too constructed.

I love the idea of Pastworld and on it’s own it is a great read, but this is a world that deserved to be more fully explored than the bounds of this story could ever allow.