beyond the hanging wall

Anniki’s Bookcase: Beyond The Hanging Wall

beyond_the_hanging_wall_aus-rereleaseDeep beneath the seas of Escator lie the Veins – rich gloam mines worked by men sentenced to die in the darkness.

Garth Baxtor, an apprentice physician, accompanies his father on Joseph′s annual journey to the Veins to tend the barely remembered miners. He knows that these doomed men have experienced unimaginable despair and pain, but nothing could prepare him for what he encounters.In the dark tunnels of the mines, Garth discovers a dangerous secret when he heals a desolate criminal with a mysterious mark on his arm. Is it truly possible that the answer to Escator′s greatest mystery is hidden beneath the hanging wall? Could the fate of the lost Prince Maximilian finally be discovered?

The “hanging wall” is a miner’s reference to the ceiling of a horizontal shaft – the wall that hangs above them. The incomparable Sara Douglass heard this phrase during visits to the Central Deborah Gold Mine in Bendigo, and it formed the basis to Beyond the Hanging Wall.

While Escator inhabits the same world as that of the Axis Trilogy, the Wayfarer Redemption or Darkglass Mountain, and is tied to that last trilogy, this is a stand-alone novel. It is not a sweeping saga of war and upheaval, of events and changes on a grand scale. It is a simple story of a lost prince and the party that search for him, of one boy’s growth into manhood and another man’s search for his identity. This is an intimate story, and by far my favourite of her books.


©2013 Anniki / Anniki’s Bookcase. To read the full review on the Anniki’s Bookcase website please click on this link.

Beyond The Hanging Wall

beyond-the-hanging-wall

The original 1996 cover.

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!)

Sara-Douglass-Beyond-the-Hanging-Wall

Rereleased in 2000 with a cover by Shaun Tan.

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 TrilogyThe Wayfarer RedemptionBeyond the Hanging Wall and Darkglass Mountain trilogy are set.