Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
on 28 February 2011
A fine novel where the unrealities of the spy trade, if you like, are not overshadowed by the fantasy.
The spies that work for Walsingham, with Swyfte as point man have it about as easy as they do on Spooks. That is, they are likely to die or fall apart a lot, and descend into vice. Here the spies have the added pressure of the Call of Cthulhu style investigator - there are actual horrors in the night that can drive you mad.
A secret war with the Unseelie is kept from the public eye, and even those involved do not know the whole story about what is going on, except right at the top - that is, Queen Elizabeth and her direct coterie.
A detente has been struck as Dr John Dee managed to erect a defense that lessend the depradations of the monsters upon English humanity, but those in other countries still suffer, particularly in Scotland. The inhumans are not happy about this, and are looking to gain back the advantage.
Swyfte and his Bond style exploits are used as PR and propaganda. There is also the very real conflict with Spain going on - so the secret agents have multiple enemies to deal with, and in fact, this novel is set during the time of the invasion of King Philip's Spanish Armada. In fact, Swyfte's Spanish counterpart plays a significant role.
Several items are key - the titular object and its very disturbing past, a Shield, and a Key. With these weapons, some rather more modern-style weapons of war are available to those controlling them.
More of Swyfte's adventures, along with his sardonic assistant Nathaniel can be found in the Solaris Book of Fantasy, the long story therein shedding further light on what is going on in the background to this Elizabethan milieu. Also a highly recommended piece.