Author: Mark Chadbourn
Publisher: Gollancz • 352 pages • £12.99
Pleasingly, the flaws of Jack of Ravens (book one of the Kingdom of the Serpent series) are not repeated here. Gone is the excessively ambitious attitude, replaced by a more realistic outlook, and the tangled plotline has been groomed till it shines.
Here we find that The Devourer of All Things (The Void to his friends) has cast the Mundane Spell to keep mankind locked in a world of perpetual greed. The Brothers and Sisters of Dragons – infused with the Pendragon Spirit – are breaking the spell as they travel in search of the magical devices to stop the Void. But the Pendragon Spirit is also awakening the Old Gods, who are very territorial, not to say homicidal…
There are a deluge of challenges, and some utterly convincing reasons to quit, and a sense of a wretched hopelessness pervades this whole volume. It’s a grim approach that Chadbourn has used in previous middle volumes of his series. This extreme despondency is useful: it illuminates the depths of his characters’ personalities as they’re forced to make hard decisions.
As usual, Chadbourn takes it even deeper. He challenges accepted points of view, comments on religion and politics, and questions perceptions, all while cracking open various mythological histories. The numerous story threads come at you in a cut-and-thrust pattern that coerces you into paying more attention just to keep up, until you’re so immersed in the adventure, emotional backlash and wonder that the damn thing takes you by stealth. This may be a quick read, but you’ll be mulling over its concepts for weeks afterwards.