Beyond the Hanging Wall is a book aimed for a younger audience than The Axis Trilogy, but can still be enjoyed by older readers. In 1996 it was published by Hodder Headline in Australia and the United Kingdom, but the rights have now been sold to HarperCollins in Australia, and it will be re-released here in March 2000 (the new cover by Shaun Tan is to the left).
Beyond the Hanging Wall is set in the same world as the Axis books, but across the Widowmaker Seas (to the east of Tencendor) in a land called Escator. The only races from Tencendor and precincts who make an appearance in Beyond the Hanging Wall are the Coroleans, but such appearances are brief and just a little tantalising.
The hanging wall is the roof of a mine tunnel (inspired by my trips down the mines here in Bendigo), and much of the action of Beyond the Hanging Wall takes place in a mine, called the Veins, where gloam is extracted. The story is basically one of escape; several of the characters have to escape, in both physical and metaphorical senses, from beyond the hanging wall. (If you suffer from claustrophobia – then don’t read this book!)
The main character is Garth Baxtor, apprentice to his physician father, Joseph. The Baxtors have a highly unusual – and highly sought after – gift, known simply as the Touch. Their hands cannot heal, but they can diagnose and encourage healing … and they can often feel much more than just the state of one’s health.
Every year each physician in the realm must spend three weeks down the Veins attending to the prisoners who mine the gloam (no free man would ever work down there); physicians are compelled to this three weeks’ service in lieu of taxation. Every physician would rather pay tax. As the book opens Garth accompanies his father down the Veins for the first time … and, laying his hands on one of the prisoners, discovers a horrifying secret.
His discovery propels Garth into an adventure in which he tries to rescue the prisoner. To do so he has to solve several riddles, and find a maddenly elusive beast called the Manteceros.
Beyond the Hanging Wall does not have the action scenes of the Axis books, although we do have a frightful duel held underground (inspired by an actual joust held between French and English knights in a mine outside of Paris – I think – during the Hundred Years War) , a couple of occasions when the sea breaks into the Veins (not nice) and several nasty looks thrown about. But this book does have far more ‘feel’ than the Axis books. I rely more on atmosphere, and pyschological ‘action’ rather than physical.
©1996-2000 Sara Douglass Enterprises
Follow this link to see the maps of Tencendor and Escator, the realms where The Axis Trilogy, The Wayfarer Redemption, Beyond the Hanging Wall and Darkglass Mountain trilogy are set.