There is a fantasy book that I read as a child, and I'm trying to find out what the name of it was. I have tried googling for all the elements I can remember but with no luck. Here's a list of what I remember about the book, hope someone can help:

It is set in a fantasy world, which appears to be based broadly on the England of the 18th century in terms of clothes / technology / political structures

The hero is an academic (of the wealthy amateur sort I think)

The story revolves around a series of paintings created some time previously by a particular artist. Over the course of years these paintings have turned out to be prophecies of events that actually took place. Sort of how people claim Nostradamus predicted World War 2, 9/11, etc, etc...but the paintings appear to be much more accurate and are taken far more seriously in this world

Most of the events depicted in the paintings have already taken place by the time of the story, but there are a handful of paintings which are considered to refer to events that have not yet happened. I seem to recall that the hero is something of an expert on these paintings.

In his youth the hero had lived in the house of a wizard (I think the only wizard in this world although not sure about that) and had been his apprentice. This apprenticeship had been cut short when he had catastrophically dabbled with magic he had been told not to, and he had had to leave the house in disgrace. He is therefore vaguely familiar with wizarding but doesn't have any actual wizard powers

About the only other thing I can remember is that the last bit of the story involves the hero entering some caverns underneath a mountain in order to try & get somewhere else. There is a section about getting through the caverns, and then that is where Book 1 ends.

It's definitely part of a series, but I don't know how many books are in the series, and I never got hold of any of the other books.

  • 1
    This really sounds like Beneath the Vaulted Hills by Sean Russell. It's book 1 of his The River into Darkness duology. Unfortunately, an answer at this point would have to consist of that single sentence.
    – Spencer
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 15:12
  • That's it! Fantastic, thank you - this has bugged me for ages now :-) Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 15:52

1 Answer 1


This really sounds like Beneath the Vaulted Hills by Sean Russell. It's book 1 of his The River into Darkness duology.

The duology is set in the same world as Russell's earlier Moontide and Magic Rise duology, but depicts earlier events. This world was one dominated by magic and powerful wizards, but magic is disappearing and there is only one known wizard left: Lord Eldritch. A radical group called the "Tellerites" is trying to bring magic back to fulfill their own ambitions for power.

The specific setting is an analogue of Regency Era Great Britain.

Erasmus Flattery is a young scholar who used to live with Lord Eldritch. At the beginning of the story, he is indeed called to examine some paintings that seem to be prophetic, but these are just a trigger. The riddle presented in the paintings opens into a web of intrigue, legend, and magic that leads into a subterranean adventure, Erasmus and his allies seeking secrets to unlocking magical power before the Tellerites can get their hands on them.

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