The House of Rumour by Jake Arnott – Book Review [Bane of Kings]

House of Rumour

Bane of Kings writes a review of The House of Rumour, an interesting and unusual novel published by Sceptre, and written by Jake Arnott. This novel was released on July 5 2012.

“An interesting novel that takes  a while to understand what’s happening, but is full of good, creative ideas and as far as I’m aware, is pretty original.” ~The Founding Fields

The House of Rumour is a novel that is unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s structured around a Tarot card deck (Each Chapter having a card from a Tarot deck as a chapter name), an area that I have little knowledge about, but an area that I would like to read more about. It’s a pretty interesting novel and is most certainly out of my comfort zone, as I haven’t read a conspiracy thriller in a while. However, it’s probably unfair to label The House of Rumour as a conspiracy thriller, as that would mean comparing it with the likes of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, and although I liked that book, I understand that it did have some flaws and The House of Rumour is in fact, better.

Larry Zagorski spins wild tales of fantasy worlds for pulp magazines. But as the Second World War hangs in the balance, the lines between imagination and reality are starting to blur.

In London, spymasters enlist occultists in the war of propaganda. In Southern California, a charismatic rocket scientist summons dark forces and an SF writer founds a new religion. In Munich, Nazis consult astrologists as they plot peace with the West and dominion over the East. And a conspiracy is born that will ripple through the decades to come.

The truth, it seems, is stranger than anything Larry could invent. But when he looks back on the 20th century, the past is as uncertain as the future. Just where does truth end and illusion begin?

THE HOUSE OF RUMOUR is a novel of soaring ambition, a mind-expanding journey through the ideas that have put man on the moon yet brought us to the brink of self-destruction.

What will you believe?

At a first glance, it looks a little complicated and you will find yourself struggling to understand what’s going on and what’s happening, but there comes a certain point in Jake Arnott’s latest novel where you will finally understand what is going on, how all of these characters, some fictional, some not (Ian Fleming, the man behind James Bond – being one of the more notable non-fictional characters), link together, and when you do – the pieces finally fall into place, and you’re left with what a novel that turns out to be a whole lot more interesting than when you started the novel.

At some point in The House of Rumour, you may probably be going on a Google-witch hunt to work out which characters are fact or fictitious, as whilst there are some obvious historical figures chucked in (as mentioned earlier, Ian Fleming), there are also some lesser known ones that you could potentially end up researching. This, although an ultimately unhelpful exercise, is nonetheless an interesting experience.

Before you go into The House of Rumour, you shouldn’t go in expecting a fast paced, action-packed encounter as if you do, you will be sorely disappointed. Arnott’s latest book is no page-turner, but it is still an entertaining read if a little boring at times. The novel also, I felt – boasted a lot of potential, and could have been a really engaging read and had the promise to be a lot better than it was. However, I felt that there were some issues which prevented The House of Rumour from being the next big thing in alternate history.

At the heart of the novel, Zagorski is the key player. Although I didn’t feel like I could really get to like him as a character, he manages to hold the story together to make it more readable. The novel takes place over the course of seventy years, there are several point of view switches that can occasionally make it hard to follow – for instance, are we in Zargorski’s head, or one of his romantic interests’ head, Mary Lou?  Although this becomes obvious after a few paragraphs, it takes a while to get used to, particularly if you’ve never read a novel with alternative first-person POVs before. The other characters are interesting to look at as well, with perhaps the one that I liked the portrayal of the most being real-life author Katharine Burdekin, who was responsible for the creation of Swastika Night, (under a penname), mainly because I now want to go and read more about the book itself. (The Goodreads page can be found here).

Verdict: 3/5

More Jake Arnott: The Long Firm, He Kills Coppers, Johnny Come Home, The Devil’s Paintbrush, 


Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer