The orphan Cole wanders the world, seeking the fabled Underground City which he has promised his love Sigrid he will find. Somewhere else entirely, Niven sits in a palace garden taking lessons in astronomy and architecture, dreaming up ways to escape being married off to one of her father’s friends.
Cole’s story is pieced together from folk songs and fragments as he travels ever onwards towards his destiny: a new life even stranger than the one before. Niven too will learn what it means to leave the garden of childhood. Their world is one of witchcraft and wishing, wisdom and regret, as they slowly learn how much it is possible to love, and suffer for the sake of love.
Comic, grotesque, lyrical, and immensely readable, Tony Williams’s fantasy picaresque is a reader’s delight. A sweeping yarn through the darkest of ages, filled with rogues, lovers, murderers, swindlers, and saints.
‘Reading Cole the Magnificent is like being plunged into a bardo pond of another life, another time, and whenever I had to emerge I was desperate to get back to it. Williams forgoes fussy description in favour of a biblical immediacy, tangible detail and a collective consciousness that sweeps you up from the first page. Undoubtedly original, shockingly visceral and brutally funny – it delivers with interest on the promise of his debut and confirms Tony Williams as a novelist we’re lucky to exist alongside.’ —Luke Kennard
‘Williams does what few novelists dare to: he takes the form and he runs with it. The result is an extraordinary feat of imagination and daring; a novel of enormous heart, learning and wisdom. Cole's journey is a difficult one: trial snaps at the heels of travail. The reader may not realise it at first but Cole's tale, which runs in many directions, reveals a clearer path. This is a gently teasing, playful, mischievous novel – Williams seems at first to give the reader the tail of an animal to grab hold of and hang on when in fact (of course!) what we are holding is Williams' fine novel and the story it contains: a compass in our hands. In the end, it doesn't matter if we can't know for certain who Cole was: a more profound truth has surfaced: Cole, a man broken to pieces by a promise he was determined to keep, is remade. He shows us what it is to live.’ —Guinevere Glasfurd
‘Cole the Magnificent is a picaresque, fantastical tale of the life (or lives) of a man, Cole, following his adventures as he progresses through a mythical pre-Norman Britain, from adolescence to old age, and beyond. It is episodic and poetic, by turns evoking Norse saga tradition and then putting post-modern quotation marks around it. Hard to encapsulate, it is sweeping, tricksy, violent, elegant, substantial, trifling, virtuoso, whimsical, colourful, deadpan, infuriating and nonsensical. It is, in its way, brilliant, but may not be for everyone.’ —Bernard Hughes, The Arts Desk
‘Tony Williams has successfully used the medium of literature to weave in and out of the life of the average person, re-creating those lives for our reading pleasure. The emotion, humour and awkwardness in these tales is the closest thing to real-life I have read in an extremely long time and I would certainly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good book that will keep you on your toes.’ —Sabotage Reviews
‘A brutal, funny and heart-rending book, it hurtles towards its fate with unremitting pace, energy and cheek.’ —Isy Suttie
‘This is a brutal book. Upon closing the last page, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. But it’s one I’d recommend to anyone. At least, anyone over the age of 18. I hope Williams has more up of this superb writing up his sleeve for us. And maybe next time I’ll figure out how he manages it.’ —Murder Underground Broke The Camel's Back
‘This novel by Tony Williams is completely magnificent. It's based on the Icelandic saga of Grettir the Strong and is set on a housing estate in Sheffield. It's horrifyingly, scabrously funny. It's one of the most distinctive and addictively readable prose voices I've encountered since Magnus Mills. If there was any justice it would be as big as Trainspotting.’ —Luke Kennard
‘Aidan is a violent thug, but also has a heartbreaking gentleness. We rattle through the plot at 100mph, but everything is described in vivid detail. Everything is ugly and sordid, but everything is captivating and beautiful. And this is achieved seamlessly. Nutcase is one of those books that feels effortless; so natural that you don’t see the brushstrokes behind the masterpiece.’ —Anna Craig, Sheffield Telegraph
‘A powerful, if disturbing, book that will remain with you long after you finish it.’ —Blue Book Balloon