Book Review: The Lion and the Unicorn

“‘Post-Reformation thinking goes that if we consume Low Culture, we emulate that low standard in every aspect of our lives,’ he’d said, orating from the middle of the cramped living room, at this point still firmly in the sauce. ‘But, tell me, does unfortunate cultural taste make for a lesser person, with less strident morals?'”

The Lion and the Unicorn, by Tom Ward

I’m delighted to join the Blog Tour of “The Lion and the Unicorn” by Tom Ward. Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours, the publishers Unbound, and of course the author for organising the tour and gifting me a copy of the book.

“The Lion and the Unicorn” by Tom Ward is a police procedural with a difference; the year is 2054 – 15 years after the ‘Reformation’ that completely re-set society in the UK. The fractured society before the uprising has been blamed on the nation’s obsession with low culture, and its head-in-the-sand attitude to what was really going on – racism, poverty and corruption. H and his partner Bagby are police detectives, charged with enforcing Section A4000204, the so-called ‘Bad Taste’ law.

The murder of Caleb Jennings starts like any other case – a potential vigilante hit targeted at a former reality TV hopeful. But it quickly becomes clear that the killing is part of a bigger picture, and H finds himself with a new partner, ex-military DI Alvan Stohl, investigating the murder of Caleb, the sudden disappearance of Bagby, and the possible involvement of tech conglomerate Vangelis. As things get increasingly complicated, H has to decide who he can trust and where his loyalties really lie.

I enjoy reading dystopian fiction (if enjoy is the right word!), and found this to be a great addition to the genre. Something I love is the familiarity of the setting, in this case London, but with a different set of societal rules for the characters to play by – although in this book in particular the rules are by no means a far stretch from where we are today! Some readers might not enjoy this, particularly reference to a past global pandemic, but this is really just the backdrop to an exciting mystery, and while the outlook might be bleak, as with all good dystopian fiction, there’s always a ray of hope for the heroes. The book isn’t without humour either – I’d certainly be guilty of breaking a few of the ‘Bad Taste’ laws when it comes to reality TV watching!

I found the title of the book interesting – the lion and the unicorn are symbols on the UK coats of arms; but on looking it up, I found it also relates to an essay by George Orwell, “The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius”, published in 1941, which discusses his belief in the values of democratic socialism. This essay led to the lion and the unicorn becoming a symbol for revolution, which of course is a major theme of Ward’s novel.

“The Lion and the Unicorn” has clear parallels with, and pays homage to, classic dystopian fiction, but at the same time feels very modern – the backdrop of a past pandemic and outcry against social injustice certainly feel very close to home. I’d highly recommend this great read to fans of dystopian fiction, mysteries and thrillers alike.

Pages: 239
Published: 2nd September 2021
Rating: 🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈 /5

About the author

Tom Ward is an author and features writer, writing for publications including
Wired, Esquire and National Geographic.

He has won the GQ Norman Mailer Award, the PPA New Consumer Magazine
Journalist of the Year Award, and has been shortlisted for The People’s Book
Prize. He is also a graduate of the Faber Academy.

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