Once a Monster
'The story flows as smoothly as the waters of the Thames, and is just as dark and deep. Of note is Dinsdale’s ability to turn a phrase, shimmering like fine crystal held to the light. A dazzling and heartfelt book.' - Luna McNamara, Author of Psyche and Eros
'Engaging and enchanting . . . a fairytale for adults, with all the wonder – and terror – that that entails' - Observer on The Toymakers
London, 1861: Ten-year-old Nell belongs to a crew of mudlarks who work a stretch of the Thames along the Ratcliffe Highway. An orphan since her mother died four years past, leaving Nell with only broken dreams and a pair of satin slippers in her possession, she spends her days dredging up coals, copper and pieces of iron spilled by the river barges – searching for treasure in the mud in order to appease her master, Benjamin Murdstone.
But one day, Nell discovers a body on the shore. It’s not the first corpse she’s encountered, but by far the strangest. Nearly seven feet tall, the creature has matted hair covering his legs, and on his head are the suggestion of horns. Nell’s fellow mudlarks urge her to steal his boots and rifle his pockets, but as she ventures closer the figure draws breath and Nell is forced to make a decision which will change her life forever . . .
From the critically acclaimed author of The Toymakers comes an imaginative retelling of the legend of the Minotaur, full of myth and magic and steeped in the grime of Victorian London; perfect for lovers of historical fiction with a mythical twist.
What if the Minotaur survived, and followed Ariadne’s string out of the twisting darkness of the labyrinth? From this thread, Dinsdale spins an engaging yarn about dreams, second chances, and monsters both ordinary and supernatural. The story flows as smoothly as the waters of the Thames, and is just as dark and deep. Of note is Dinsdale’s ability to turn a phrase, shimmering like fine crystal held to the light. A dazzling and heartfelt book.
Luna McNamara, author of Psyche and Eros
I was very moved by this story about shame, the costs of survival, and being loved in all one’s brokenness. Minos makes perfect sense as a character living at the margins in Victorian London, and the different ways Nell searches for beauty in the dirt will stay with me for a long time.
Kate Mascarenhas, author of The Psychology of Time Travel and Hokey Pokey
Engaging and enchanting . . . a fairytale for adults, with all the wonder – and terror – that that entails . . .
The Observer on The Toymakers