Again the detail that Mark Chadbourn goes into sucks you in.
The Eternal Conflict between the Light and the Dark once again blackens the skies and blights the land. On one side: the Tuatha De Danaan, golden-skinned and beautiful, filled with the might of the angels. On the other: the Fomorii, monstrous devils hellbent on destroying all human existence. In the middle: five Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, determined to use the strange power that binds them to the land in a last, desperate attempt to save the human race.
Chadbourn's second in the `Age of Misrule' is kind enough to open with a synopsis of the previous novel, `World's End'. The story picks up promptly as our famous five learn that the essence of Balor is about to be given a physical host in the vast caverns under Edinburgh and only they can prevent it. With the vainglorious Tuatha de'Danaan ever present Church, Ruth, Veitch, Shavi and Laura (whose cynicism and self-pity has becoming thoroughly grating) set off with their mentor Tom to stop the Fomori from releasing their leader into the world.
However, upon arrival in the Scottish capital we find a particularly nasty element of Celtic folklore made incarnate - the Calliach Bheur, pretty much unbeatable and bringer of winter to the land. As this hag moves through the city killing at will to protect the essence of Balor in time for the August 1 ritual, Shavi and Laura manage to defy the Bone Inspector and release the gloriously insane Maponus to do battle with her. Meanwhile, Callow kidnaps Ruth and she ends up in the clutches of Calatin who promptly forces the essence of Balor into her in the form of a Black Pearl. Now pregnant with the dark one, weeks remain until his rebirth, alien-style.
What follows is a race north and south, Veitch and Tom to plead assistance from Tom's once-captor, the Queen of the Danaan, Ruth and Church head to Otherworld to Dian Cecht, Shavi attempts to join with the Bone Inspector to re-imprison Maponus and in the interim Church has to deal with the emotional wrangling of Ruth, Laura and Niamh. Eventually, the second denouement occurs with a moment of great sacrifice, two characters die (though you suspect the Pendragon spirit will ensure a resurrection), Balor gets reborn and a host of assorted characters get removed and replaced with new ones.
My only concern with this novel is the author's continued use of drugs to achieve connection to the spiritual side of the new world. Its over-emphasis is disconcerting at times and I wonder if it is truly necessary. That aside, whilst this book is not as good as the opener it serves up enough thrills and spills in an England turned back to magic to ensure the third and final novel is read.
The blurb on the book - The Eternal Conflict between the Light and Dark once again blackens the skies and blights the land. On one side stand the Tuatha de Danaan, golden-skinned and beautiful, filled with all the might of angels. On the other are the Fomorii, monstrous devils hell-bent on destroying all human existence. And in the middle are the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, determined to use the strange power that binds them to the land in a last, desperate attempt to save the human race. Church, Ruth, Ryan, Laura and Shavi have joined forces with Tom, a hero from the mists of time, to wage a guerilla war against the iron rule of the gods. But they didn't count on things going from bad to worse . . . Darkest Hour is the stunning continuation of a powerful fantasy saga by one of Britain's most acclaimed young writers.
Sounds simple, the 5 Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, just have to use their new found powers, (except they don’t really have new found powers, they just appear to have some vague ideas about how they are slightly enhanced, and some of them are not convinced they have any power at all to stop the Fomorii) and all they have to do is with the aid of Tom work out how they can stop the evil from destroying the world. Except of course that all hell is being let loose on the UK, and there are lots of Fomorii out there hell bent on ensuring the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons will not get in the way.
We start where the first book left off, the characters having to regroup after the fallout from that book, and plan where they go from here. By the time you get part way through the book you find the odd vengeful Fomorii who wants to chop a finger off each of their hands, oh and let’s not forget about the fact that someone has kidnapped and is torturing Ruth... you really don’t want to know that things then go downhill from there.
This book is better paced then book one, it’s got more of an even flow to it, there is action going on throughout the book, and by the end the Brothers and Sisters of the Dragon have to split up to keep forging ahead with their plans to try and stop the destruction of humanity as we know it. As the book goes on you know that things are not going well for our Heroes. By the end you feel sorry for them, but the Brothers and Sisters of the Dragons don’t give up and keep fighting in their own ways. Church feels the pressure of being the nominal leader of the bunch, but learns to cope with this. You even start to feel sorry for Ryan, the self confessed murderer, who goes to extra-ordinary events to try to help Ruth.
Again the detail that Mark Chadbourn goes into sucks you in, you get another tour of the UK and some of the interesting Celtic myths, and with quite a sizeable portion of the book set in Edinburgh you feel as if you know your way around the city after reading this. Well the bits that are left...
By the end of the book you take a deep breath and start to hunt around for book 3. How are they going to get out of this? And, just how many of them will there be left to stop the Fomorii. I’ve no idea what’s going to happen next, but I know that I’m going to grab book 3 to find out. It really draws you into the series, and you need to find out what happens. It’s just that bit more polished then book 1. Another good thing about this series is that because the series has been out a few years, I can grab book 3 and find out straight away what happens. No need to wait a year or so for the conclusion.
Stephanie Gelder, 9/10
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