The Devil in Green by Mark Chadbourn

Humanity has emerged, blinking, from the Age of Misrule into a world substantially changed: cities lie devastated, communications are limited, anarchy rages across the land. Society has been thrown into a new Dark Age where superstition holds sway. The Tuatha De Danaan roam the land once more, their terrible powers dwarfing anything mortals have to offer. And in their wake come all the creatures of myth and legend, no longer confined to the shadows. Fighting to find their place in this new world, the last remnants of the Christian Church call for a group of heroes: a new Knights Templar to guard the priesthood as they set out on their quest for souls. But as everything begin to fall apart, the Knights begin to realise their only hope is to call on the pagan gods of Celtic myth for help.

The opening in Mark Chadbourn second book in a trilogy of a New Britain (though not quite what Tony Blair had in mind at the time of writing), `The Devil in Green' is set couple of decades beyond the initial adventures of the Age of Misrule. Science is gone, the old ways have returned and the Five Brothers and Sisters of the Dragons are spoken of as mythical heroes. Here, Chadbourn focuses his `further adventures' down to Salisbury (with the odd appearance by Old Sarum) and specifically its Cathedral. Whereas the `Age of Misrule' covered most of Britain, now we get a darker novel created through a sense of claustrophobia.

The plot concerns one Mallory, a maverick mercenary who helps the fleeing Miller on his way into Salisbury to join the newly created Knights Templar. After being attacked en route they arrive and are drawn into a cloistered world of Inquisition renaissance and bishopric power-mongers as a militant group set up a fortress in the Cathedral and its grounds. The ever sceptical Mallory finds his own brand of cynicism frowned upon by the likes of Stefan and Cornelius and the thuggish militia captains, Hipgrave, Broderick and Blaine.

A couple of excursions to the plain bring Mallory into contact with some Travellers, led by Sophie, and the Otherworld where he discovers he is a Brother of Dragons. There he is bequeathed the Sword Llyrwyn and after surviving another deadly attack gets back to the grotesquely altered Cathedral with his compatriots, Miller, Daniels, and Gardner. Hipgrave later turns up.

The tardis-like Cathedral allows Mallory to come into contact with the Caretaker and eventually Cuernuos who has been attacking the Cathedral to regain the object that the evil Stefan has stolen. Two brutal murders later and Mallory and Sophie end up being rescued by a Fabulous beast and the truth behind the St Cuthbert’s relic is finally revealed.

This Chadbourn effort isn't bad, but it's not as good as the Age of Misrule trilogy.

9/10 A darker novel created through a sense of claustrophobia.

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