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Steerpike book

Lean and mean.

After a fat bastard villain with Baron Harkonnen, it's time for a slim bastard to enter the realm of complete monstery. The main villain from the semi-obscure Gormenghast series, Steerpike.

What's the work?

The Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake are three fantasy novels which take place in a Constructed World notable for eschewing the supernatural and the menagerie of beings associated with most fantasy stories. The novels revolve around a series of grotesque and quirky characters who live inside a huge castle with surrounding huts which appears to be cut off from the rest of the world.

The books, more accurately called the Titus trilogy, concern the titular Titus Groan, the 77th Earl of Groan. He dreads the long life before him, a life of ruling a single huge building, never leaving the moth-eaten, rusted-shut, claustrophobic, crumbling halls of pointless, decaying ritual. The castle/village's other inhabitants include the power hungry and nihilistic manipulator Steerpike, Titus's sister Fuchsia, the good Dr. Prunesquallor, The cruel chef Abiatha Swelter, Titus's gloomy father Earl Sepulchrave, and Titus's mother Gertrude, who is a crazy cat lady.

In 2000, the BBC adapted the work for television as a project explicitly for the new millennium, focusing on the first two books involving Steerpike, where he is depicted as more sympathetic than his book counterpart. Brian Sibley adapted the books for BBC Radio twice - the first time also adapting the first two books as separate plays, the second as a series, The History of Titus Groan, adapting the entire trilogy.

Who is he and what he has done?

Steerpike is the main villain of the Gormenghast trilogy and the archenemy of Titus Groan. Originally a poor but diabollically cunning kitchen boy working under the abusive chef Swelter, one day he decides to become the ruler of Gormenghast through any heinous means he can think of, thus triggering the events of the first two books.

Steerpike is a vicious sociopath who was once a kitchen boy but rose to become one of the most powerful figures in Gormenghast. Steerpike puts his plan in motion starting with setting fire to Earl Sepulchrave Groan's beloved library, resulting in the Earl's insanity and eventual suicide, setting himself up as a hero who rescued everyone else from the fire. Steerpike burns the master of ritual, Barquentine, to death to steal his position and steadily either ruins or murders those who stand in his path while also seducing Fuchsia Groan, Titus' sister, plotting to dispose of her as well once she is no longer needed. Steerpike kills Sepulchrave's twin sisters by sealing them in a room and leaving them to starve to death, murdering the former servant Flay when he and Titus catch Steerpike gloating to the corpses years later. Escaping into the castle, Steerpike decides to destroy everyone Titus holds dear if he cannot rule the castle out of spite. Described as having forsaken any conscience he might once had possessed, Steerpike will lie, cheat, corrupt and murder, stopping at nothing to claim the power he feels should be his.

Heinous standards

The majority of Gormenghast characters are just weird and kind of coo-coo, Steerpike is the one character to be considered evil through and through, taking smug sattisfaction in orchestrating the deaths of the Groan family and ruining the lives of the people he manipulated.

Mitigating factors

Being mistreated by the chef when he was a kitchen boy doesn't justify his cruelty and greed at all.

Final verdict

An easy keep.

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