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A tremendous start for the follow-up to the Age of Misrule
on 18 May 2004
With the end of the Age of Misrule, I thought that I had seen the last of Mark Chadbourn's altered world, but I should have realised that there far too many open ends for the story to end there.
If the Age of Misrule was about the transition period from the new ways to the old, then the Dark Age (of which this book is the first) is about life in this altered world, where the Tuatha de Danann may be temporarily absent after the battle at the end of Always Forever, but where the ancient powers are still very much alive.
Mallory, a man running from his past, encounters a young man named Miller and the two of them join the new Knights Templar, a group established to protect the last vestiges of the Christian Church as they seek to re-establish the Word - but Mallory's thoughts are drawn by the presence of Sophie Tallent, a powerful witch, in a nearby camp. She explains about the power in the land, and a meeting with a member of the Tuatha de Danann reveals to Mallory that he is a Brother of Dragons, born to protect the vestiges of humanity in this new world. With the help of Sophie, herself a Sister of Dragons, and the new friends he makes within the Knights Templar, Mallory must battle an evil from the edges of Existence - as well as the evils of the human tendency for paranoia and the evil buried deep in his own heart.
This novel raises an important issue after the Age of Misrule trilogy - the events of the final book left the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons forever broken, and with the various members dead, lost or moved on to newer, more powerful roles, in keeping with tradition a new Five must be gathered.
One surprise is that the group is not fully-formed during this first book as in the Age of Misrule - indeed, despite Sophie's presence much of it concentrates on Mallory and the strictly make world within the monastery he finds his home.
Chadbourn's distinctive style is present throughout this novel, and although the story is similar to that of the Age of Misrule - most notably the similar theme of uniting the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons - there are subtle differences which mark it out as a separate book. For example, even though Mallory and Sophie could easily be said to fit the Church/Ruth archetypes, for me there is enough of a disparity to enjoy them as separate characters and new creations.
Fans of Chadbourn's earlier works will be pleased with subtle references to Church and Ruth, and the events of the earlier novels, referred to in these books as 'The Fall'. Even if nothing is seen of the original Brothers and Sisters of Dragons in these works, I will be happy to follow this new tale and see where Chadbourn's mind will lead. Judging by previous books, it will lead to another magnificent work.