The third of four books (though Curtis Jobling has proposed a fifth) and things aren't going well for Drew Ferran and the Wolf's Council. Book 2 saw the vengeance of catlords of Bast upon the seven realms of Lyssia and Book 3 finds our heroes in dire straits.
Jobling's influences are clear; the first half of the book has a feel of Sinbad's adventures, of Ray Harryhausen and swashbuckling films of old. But like these old adventures the novel does, at first, seem episodic as our heroes find themselves in one bad situation after another. And the Star Wars influence is there again, as one of our heroes has something of Anakin Skywalker about him.
We see more of the world of Lyssia, Drew fighting for his life in the fires of Scoria and the deserts of Omir, and Hector and co. in the icy north of Lyssia and its waters. Drew on his way back up, Hector on his way down. And not just through these contrasts does it feel like a story of two halves, the first, dealing with the aftermath of the last book, the second preparing us for the next.
As usual, Jobling writes with a clear sense of visuals, you can clearly picture the locations, characters and action. And boy is there plenty of action, always bloody, sometimes surprising, and occasionally I found myself muttering "that's cool..." under my breath.
Apart from the odd piece of heavy exposition the dialogue also shines, there are some lovely exchanges and wonderfully drawn characters. We meet a few new characters as well, some comic, some terrifying.
Everything great about this series is still here; great action, proper adventure, genuinely interesting characters, shades of grey and heart wrenching twists and turns.
Fans of the leading ladies Whitley and Gretchen will be disappointed as they get nothing more than lip service, although they are set to play a big part of Book 4. That is perhaps, one of the other problems of being the middle book of a series, there's a lot of moving of chess pieces sometimes at the expense of a more clearly defined standalone narrative. Something else we are still lacking is one truly vile, leading villain. We have plenty of antagonists but few rarely get to steal the show. This is, perhaps, just more realistic, especially with Jobling's willingness to not have every character fall into the well defined camps of good or evil.
Though, to misquote Spinal Tap, when the adventure is this fun, the sequences so thrilling and the characters so interesting, it’s all just nitpicking isn’t it?
Review by Sean Mason
Curtis Jobling is an author and illustrator famously known as the designer of the BAFTA winning BBC show Bob The Builder, as well as creator of Frankenstein's Cat. Early work in animation included model and puppet paintin [...]
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