Many decades ago, as a teenager, I happened across a secondhand paperback in a town market, drawn to it sadly by the title and the cool cover. Picking it up for twenty pence, I dived into its pages unprepared for the magic that was to follow. On completion, I desperately wanted more but was to be disappointed for that book was The Walrus and the Warwolf, book four in the Hugh Cook series, The Chronicles of an Age of Darkness, and I did not have the money to buy or access to the others.
Fast forwards almost forty years and coming to the end of my science fiction swing of the pendulum, I was discussing with my partner potential fantasy series to read and this memory was suddenly dragged from the past. Full of excitement, I accessed my Kindle reader only to discover that not only was the series not in digital form but that it had been out of print for many years. Ebay to the rescue and after a month, I had the entire book series in my possession, the first nine in the same form with the same cover artist, and book ten in a very odd form, suggesting at some sort of publisher issue. With lots of research into the idiosyncratic author, I entered the first volume full of excitement and trepidation.
Having completed the journey I can report that I am mostly pleased with the result. The author’s impressive character creation skills provide for a strong bonding with the protagonists, refreshingly so since there are no judgements or hidden agendas that seek to influence the opinion of the reader. Characters swing around the entire circle of the moral compass both in total and in instance, allowing the reader to make judgement and decision on their own recognisance, and thus imbuing the individual and communal actions and interactions with a powerful realism.
Another strength of the author is his imagination, which pours further almost without respite, but all against a strong if only partially revealed cannon. Of course this is often true of first books, with the initial drenching petering out rapidly in subsequent outings. My memories of The Walrus and the Warwolf suggest a resilience but that may be down to my fading faculties; I await further outings.
A particular sense of humour hums along in the background, often breaking into the action. I found it amusing in the main but for some it could spill over into a level of misogyny that is unpleasant; in the context of a barbarous post apocalyptic setting, it could be argued that it fits but I remain to be convinced.
The plot proceeds quickly, sometimes to the point of expediency and I did feel as if the last few pages of the book were a frantic dash to some unknowable out of context deadline.
I enjoyed the book and will read the rest, not just because I have their bodies now stacked up next to my bed but because I am intrigued to see how they and the author’s craft develops.. I am in two minds about the quality, depth, and craftsmanship however.