Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black by Marcus and Julian Sedgwick – Book Review

Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black by Marcus and Julian Sedgwick – Book Review

Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black by Marcus Sedgwick

Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black

Authors – Marcus and Julian Sedgwick
Illustrator – Alexis Deacon
Publisher – Walker Books
Pages – 320
Released – 2nd May 2019
ISBN-13 – 978-1406357929
Format – hardcover
Reviewer – Stacey
Rating – 4 stars
I received a free copy of this book.
This post contains affiliate links.


A lyrical and dreamlike story of two brothers in conflict amidst the devastation of WWII London.

Harry Black wakes in hospital to learn that his brother Ellis has almost certainly been killed by a V2 rocket falling during a German air raid on London. In a state of wounded delirium, Harry’s mind begins to blur the distinctions between the reality of the war-torn city, the fiction of his unpublished sci-fi novel and the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Driven by visions of Ellis still alive and a sense of poetic inevitability, Harry discharges himself from hospital and begins a search for his brother that will lead him deep into the city’s Underworld…

Review new 2021

Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black is one of those books that you are never fully sure on what is happening but you don’t want to put it down either. A storyline that both keeps you engaged and totally confuses you, plus it’s a little strange too.

Set in London during WWII, we begin our journey on Boxing Day 1944 at 4.15pm with National Fire Service Fireman Harry Black attending a warehouse fire. He’s not off fighting in the war like his brother Ellis, in fact, Harry is an objector of the war.

During the fire, Harry becomes trapped after mistaking some mannequins for people. He eventually makes it out but has a kind of epiphany, one in which he realises for the first time he is truly alive and he needs to start living, including going back to writing and drawing. Ellis is the better writer of the two and he wants them to pen a book together so he meets him at the White Horse pub to talk about the book and getting back to being brotherly to one another again.

Harry left the pub and got on the local bus, leaving Ellis in the pub, that’s when a V2 bomb struck flattering the building and knocking the bus over. Harry woke up in hospital delirious and confusing the ideas and drawings he has for his book and reality and soon the two begin to merge together and Harry confuses himself with a character called Orpheus Black.

The book is told from the point of view of Harry and Orpheus, they are but one and the same. The book captures the true essence of war as well as brotherly love and how vivid the imagination can be at times.

The illustrations throughout are dark and meaningful. They make you feel what the time period was like and the harrow and suffering that was felt by all in those years. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and these images are living proof of that.

Amongst the storyline and the illustrations are poems too, there are some very deep and thought-provoking poems throughout. At the back is a letter from Ellis which makes you wonder whether Marcus and Julian Sedgwick came up with the plot or whether there really was an Ellis Black, either way, it is a magnificent read and even in my confusion, the book was enjoyable.

Book Reviewer – Stacey

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24 Responses

  1. Jo Linsdell says:

    Not sure this is one for me but enjoyed your review.

  2. Susanne says:

    This sounds like a good read. I like the inclusion of the WWII topic 🙂 Might give this a go

  3. Bentley says:

    Your review has me really intrigued. I quite like portal fantasy stories, in which characters move from our world into the unknown. I might have to check this out!

  4. Thanks. I can’t see how it isn’t a book for everyone.

  5. It’s good timing to with D Day tomorrow.

  6. It’s a really good book and worth checking out. Thanks

  7. Emma Mane says:

    What an amazing book. Superb review.

  8. Thanks, Glad you like the look of it.

  9. Lilyfae says:

    Well that’s me persuaded to look out for this now!!

  10. DJ Sakata says:

    I love it when books that give me that feeling

  11. Nadene @totallyaddictedtoreading says:

    its good you enjoyed it in the midst of your confusion.

  12. Great review!

  13. Karina says:

    This sounds like something I’ll enjoy as well. Great review!

  14. I like the idea of added images throughout a book. Helps paint a picture as I am bad and trying to figure out what something looks like just based on words!

  15. Ruby @ Ruby's Books says:

    This sounds like such a powerful story! Great review.

  16. I like the idea of mixing the story, illustrations, and poems.

  17. Brilliant, I hope you enjoy it too.

  18. Thanks, it worked out in the end.

  19. Wonderful, I hope you get to read it then. Thanks.

  20. The images are what brings this book to life, they are amazing.

  21. It really is, thank you.

  22. It really works for this book.