When Jack Churchill and Ruth Gallagher encounter a terrifying, misshapen giant beneath a London bridge they are plunged into a mystery which portends the end of the world as we know it. All over the country, the ancient gods of Celtic myth are returning to the land from which they were banished millennia ago. Following in their footsteps are creatures of folklore: fabulous beasts, wonders and dark terrors. As technology starts to fail, Jack and Ruth are forced to embark on a desperate quest for four magical items - the last chance for humanity in the face of powers barely comprehended.
Oh... this is very good.
Opening in a London pea-souper, Jack Churchill and Ruth Gallagher arrive at the scene of a scuffle which rapidly becomes a murder that leaves them firstly unconscious then traumatised. On waking and then undergoing hypnotherapy they come to realise that the duality that is the world is about to end, that science is shortly to die and magic to regain its place in the world. What follows is a manic car chase down the M4 as they are hunted by a dragon, one of the Fabulous beasts and then stalked by the Baobhan Sith.
Over the course of the next hundred or so pages we learn that Ruth and Church are two of the Five Brothers and Sisters of the Dragon, fated to save the world from the return of the Fomori, the fantastically evil enemies of the Tuatha De Danann.
After meeting the third sister, the overly cynical Laura and being tasked by one of the remaining Tuatha De Danann to find the four objects of power (Stone of Fal, Sword of Nuada, Spear of Lugh, Cauldron of Dagda) by Beltane they find themselves being hunted across Southern England as a lantern of power directs them to each object. After quickly gaining the stone in Avebury, Church and Tom (an ageing hippy who has visited the Otherlands and has become the five's mentor) are caught by the Fomori leader and tortured, before they escape with new brother Dragon, Veitch. Laura and Ruth meet up with the fifth brother, Shavri and narrowly escape capture by the Wild Hunt. All the while science continues to fail and the countryside is beginning to realise that the stuff of fairy tales is coming true, whilst the great cities slumber unprepared.
The chase truly begins as they move to Glastonbury Tor for the cauldron, or Graal, to Tintagel for the Sword and deepest Wales for the final spear before hurtling northwards through the Lake District. During the events each experiences their own personal odyssey as we are introduced to the special skills that make up the quintet. However, the sum is always greater than the parts. Having recovered all then losing the artefacts they defeat the Erle King and bring the objects together for Beltane and free the Danann who drive off the Fomori. The victory comes at price as the Danann claim intent to stay on Earth and claim it for themselves and we conclude with the British government finally broadcasting to a nation the darkness that lies ahead.
Chadbourn's first of three is a sparkling read, weaving multiple Celtic myths together to reopen a Britain that has much of its folklore in mistier times. Providing a new future for the island nation and bringing together some peculiarly British characters (who do need some more work to become more rounded) it is a magisterial tour de force from this author that any fantasy fan will enjoy.
World’s End is book 1 of The Age of Misrule. Which is the first of three linked trilogies which are all based in the same world, but, don’t necessarily follow the same characters. The second and third trilogies are The Dark Age and Kingdom of the Serpent.
I found it quite hard to try to pigeon hole this book and describe it as say, a heroic modern fantasy, or maybe an insane ride through the destruction of the age of Science and Technology. In the end I’ve settled for what Mark Chadbourn has on his blog, it’s a mytho-fantasy series.
We begin the book following the lives of Jack Churchill (known by everyone as Church) an archaeologist, and Ruth Gallagher a solicitor, as they follow their routines in modern day England. They meet each other when they both witness an attack in London by what can only be describes as a monster. Early on we start to see that things are changing, the Earth as we know it is changing, things starts to break down, with technology and science falling apart at the seams.
Church and Ruth observe the beginning of this. We then follow them as they try to find out what is going on, starting with mad UFO hunters and then follow them as they flee across the country . Neither is 100% sure if what is happening is real but after a wakeup call, with one of the rare older beasts, known in mythology as a Dragon which destroys the motorway they are on in as it struggles to destroy them, as a result of this they finally come around to realising that their world has been turned upside down.
Along the way we find out that they are 2 of the 5 brothers and sisters of the Dragon. The guardians of the Earths magic, and that they have a couple of months to gather together the rest of the Brothers and Sisters and find the 4 ancient artefacts from the dawn of time, and that they need to use these to free the ancient gods of Celtic myth (who range from near humans to aliens with hardly any concept of humanity, and human kind), if they fail then the worst nightmares of myth, creatures of folklore, fabulous beasts and ancient monsters (collectively known as the Fomoorii) will overrun the world, and they don’t care who they trample on to do it. In fact the more humans trampled below their feet/appendages the better. So Church and Ruth, with the aid of a slightly mad old Scottish hippie called Tom, and their fellow Brothers and Sisters of the Dragon plough their way from Tintagel to Scotland leaving a trail of disaster in their wake as they find the four artefacts, and put together a plan to free the Gods. The deadline is Beltane (the 1st of May). How will these mythical gods save the world, they don’t really know, but they know they have to free them by Beltane to stand any chance of finding out.
This is not a pretty group of heroes. Most of them have their own dark secrets, they all feel as if something has been wrong with their lives, not least amongst them is the ex bank robber with a murderous past. This is a grown up fantasy book with a few scenes of sex and violence. Later we find out just how messed up and controlled all of their lives, and even some of their relationships have been. Buckle up tight because you are in for a heck of a ride. The book starts of quite slow paced, as we build up the picture of what is happening and get to know the Brothers and Sisters of the Dragon. By the end of the book, it’s a mad, mad rush, from crisis to crisis as they do their best to save the world from its fate.
The details that Mark Chadbourn puts into the Celtic mythology are fantastic. I’ve never really been that keen on Celtic mythology in books in the past, this is the first book where I’ve enjoyed going into the details of the old myths. Generally the small details in the book are amazing. You feel as if he’s walked every path, and driven every road that the characters have travelled upon. It all helps to make the book feel that bit more authentic than the average story.
It’s a good start to the series; with a strong ending leaving you wanting more. I’m not sure where book two will go... But, I know that I’m looking forward to finding out.
Stephanie Gelder, 8.8/10
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