Cobley borrows from the best, makes it his own, and brings us something wonderful.
The strength of his writing lies in the attention to detail. Locations are lovingly sculpted, dialogue is fresh and natural, whilst still retaining the neccessary idioms of fantasy.
Like all the best fantasy books the Shadowkings series is at once utterly strange and strangely familiar. You have stumbled across ideas like these before, but you can't quite put your finger on where.
But then Cobley shifts gear and you realise you are in uncharted territory. At times it's more like being in some hallucinatory computer game than reading a book, the settings are so well realised.
If I had to point out a weakness it would be the amount of exposition, but in this latest volume that is thankfully brief, and slotted into place in the action, rather than interrupting the narrative. This is a failing of the form, rather than any inherent flaw in Cobley's skill (although I long for the day when someone finds a way around this).
It is a story of dark powers and how they never really go away; of mages and unlucky fools; of heroes and other worlds.
I find influences from manga; classic pulp sf; Buffy; Tolkien; Lovecraft; Babylon 5; Ellison; Spinrad; Blish; Asimov's Foundation; Dune; Gormenghast - all touched upon lightly to build something refreshingly dark and new.
The tragedy is that there isn't more from this writer. His short story collection "Iron Mosaic" shows the breadth of his interest, and his non-fiction writings pop up elsewhere from time to time.
They do say that good things are worth waiting for.