REVIEW SUMMARY: Celtic gods and creatures, Arthurian legends emerge as the technology of the current world fails. A well paced, character and setting rich “old world dies, new world begins” fantasy novel (first of a trilogy)
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Our current age of technology is ending, as creatures of myth awaken. Five seemingly ordinary people in England are thrust into fighting for humanity against the gods of old. They must figure out who they are, find objects of power, and complete impossible quests…all while the world they know stops working, dodging dragons and ghouls.
PROS: Transition from modern normalcy to chaos smooth and believable (even for a fantasy novel); Celtic myths and Arthurian legends interwoven with English landscape; awesome Picacio cover; bad ass fire bombing dragons!
CONS: Took me away from my own writing; I will get Chadbourn for that (or have him buy me a pint).
BOTTOM LINE: A excellent rendition on “the end of this world” with the starting of a different one, well written, great characters…a first book that makes you go out and hunt down the next two in the series.
Jack Churchill (called Church) is haunted by the mysterious death of his fiance’, Marianne. Ruth Gallagher is a lawyer, a job she hates but stays in because of respect for her father, who died of a heart attack moments after hearing her Uncle was shot and killed in a bank robbery. They meet under a bridge in London, as they witness a murder of a man by something that is not human, something so not-of-this-world that it overwhelms them to the point of passing out. Convincing themselves they were not hallucinating, they investigate the killing and other similar events that are cropping up all over England and the world. Church (who is haunted by visions of dead Marianne) finds Laura on the Internet, who says she knows what is causing these events.
On their way to meet Laura, Church and Ruth run into Tom, who is more than the old hippie he appears to be, as he knows more about these events and helps them escape the misshapen creatures chasing them. If they need more convincing, a dragon firebombs the highway they are driving on, and Tom says it is hunting them (they head for Stonehenge, using its earth power to shelter them). Laura takes Church into a portal to the Watchtower, a space between worlds, where he sees visions of his future and meets Niamh, one of the beings the Celts called Tuatha de Danaan (also known as the Golden Ones), powerful creatures of legend. She tells him she has been watching him all his life, and that he is the leader of the five Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, legendary Earth heroes. The Formorii (the Night Walkers), rivals of the Tuatha de Danaan and destroyers of humanity, have returned, breaking an age old pact and locking any of the Tuatha de Danaan in a Wish Hex. She charges Church with gathering four magic relics (some of which resemble Arthurian symbols such as the Holy Grail and Excalibur) which will help break the barrier and allow the Tuatha de Danaan to return as well.
Together with Shavi, a Asian shaman, and Ryan Veicht, a street thug, (both whom have also had tragedies affect their lives) Church, Ruth and Laura form the five Brothers and Sisters of Dragons and start their quest to save the world.
There are almost as many end of world novels as there are authors (yes, guilty!) in both science fiction and fantasy. My last article on SFSignal talked about different types of technology changes that can be found in sci-fi novels; Chadbourn’s series features a gradual technology collapse in a fantasy novel, with technology slowly but surely being replaced by a sense of the Earth, nature and magic. Chadbourn handles this transition seamlessly, taking the characters (and the reader) from a modern London to using Stonehenge as a refuge from creatures so heinous they cannot look upon them without nausea. Even though it was originally released in the late 90s by Gollancz in the UK, World’s End has a very 2012ish “a new age is coming” feel to it.
As a frequent traveler to the U.K., the descriptions of the sights, culture and settings brought reminders of many of those visits. In typical British fashion, even with the end of the world, there is always time for a pint (planning battles in a pub is an ancient and honored tradition, I believe). As a fan and collector of Churchill books, naming the leader of the five Brothers and Sisters of Dragon Jack Churchill was not lost on me; the British World War II “Blitz” mentality is described in the novel and used well in a similar battle that pits Brits against inconceivable odds. If I had one ding on this novel, it would be that I wanted to see events in other parts of the world outside of Britain.
There is torture, horror, maiming and death; but that is expected in war. And there is magic, and unexplained happenings (like why the technology is failing, and how paths between worlds open up); but that is expected in fantasy.
And one cannot comment on the books in this Pyr trilogy without admiring the striking front covers. This is a special case when a cover also sells the book (props to fellow San Antonio native John Picacio). My college age son, an avid reader, saw the cover and said “I get that one next” without even me telling him what it is about.
An excellent fantasy, well told. I’m glad there is no waiting, the other two books are already published.