The Sword of Angels review

Epic fantasy trilogy draws to a fan-pleasing conclusion.

792 PAGES · £14.99

Author:
John Marco

Publisher:
Gollancz

ISBN:
0-575-07779-4

Rating: 3/5

As John Marco's ambitious (unnamed) second fantasy trilogy moves glacially towards its climax, the experience becomes increasingly like watching a group of people playing a game of Risk.

The trilogy has long left behind its initial Camelot infl uences, and now boasts a vast cast of characters, in a huge number of kingdoms, warring or allying with each other. Granted, there’s still a Holy Grail-style quest – this time the Bronze Knight Lukien is after a mystical sword which is the only weapon that can defeat the Devil’s Armour worn by Baron Glass – but Marco is far more interested in exploring the politics and diplomacy of his massive canvas. Few characters are truly either good or evil, and Marco makes sure we get to know what in particular drives each and every one of them, ramping up the moral ambiguities.

With The Sword of Angels, the trouble is too much attention has been paid to analysing the characters and situations at the expense of plotting. The multiple story strands lead to a paucity of real meaty events, and the loss of characters, who simply vanish for hundreds of pages. Examine any one of these strands in isolation, and surprisingly little happens.

Even fans of the series may weary of the plodding nature of much of this final book, though the characters remain strong enough to keep them turning pages. Then, finally, Marco provides a climax with a few curveballs that makes for a satisfying pay-off for the faithful and determined. Tempted newcomers to Marco, though, should begin elsewhere.

Dave Golder

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