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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Swashbuckling adventurous fun
Thoroughly enjoyable swashbuckling thriller set against the backdrop of the Spanish Armada attempting to invade England. Will Swyfte has to try and recapture a dangerous weapon from the Otherworld that has fallen into the hands of the Spanish. The book has all the ingredients of a top spy thriller but with a slightly different slant. The Otherworld element really adds to...
Published on 9 Jun 2010 by disrep

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard going
This book is a fine read once you get into it. However at times it can be slightly confusing and difficult to identify and retain the plot.
Published 21 months ago by Mike Chapman


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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Swashbuckling adventurous fun, 9 Jun 2010
By 
Thoroughly enjoyable swashbuckling thriller set against the backdrop of the Spanish Armada attempting to invade England. Will Swyfte has to try and recapture a dangerous weapon from the Otherworld that has fallen into the hands of the Spanish. The book has all the ingredients of a top spy thriller but with a slightly different slant. The Otherworld element really adds to the tension and scare factor, nothing can be relied upon to be just what it seems.

It has very good pace especially the latter third. Enough scene setting to paint the picture but not so much as to dull the story.

I really liked the attention to detail on the historical and nautical facts, plus I liked the language. It's not posh english (not all "what ho my good man") but they all speak correctly, no slang. They speak like gentlemen which aided the feel of the book for me. Chadbourn has put his own spin on history to great effect, involving the stuff of nightmares and making you wonder about what does go bump in the night.

Will Swyfte appears in another unrelated Chadbourn book, Jack of Ravens, and it is great to see him have his own tales to tell. This is his story and I hope the first of many adventures of a very likeable if troubled character.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Super Swyfte, 28 Feb 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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sword of Albion - an excellent read, 19 Jan 2011
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The author, Mr CHADBOURNE, has entered the world of the Elizabethan age more completely than any other author I have read. His knowledge of, and feel for, the world of the 16th Century, is remarkable. 'The Sword of Albion' is a real page turner of a book, and is excellent entertainment throughout.

Mr CHADBOURNE has described the social conditions, history, clothes, technology, folk beliefs, and magic with such accuracy that he might have lived in the Elizabethan age.

The reader would gain much in appreciation of the age by reading the plays of William Shakespeare, especially 'A Midsummer Night's dream' A Midsummer Night's Dream. The reader might also benefit from a modern study of Doctor Dee The Queen's Conjuror: The Life and Magic of Dr. Dee: The Science and Magic of Dr.Dee.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far better than expected - can't wait for the next one!, 18 Aug 2010
Although I am an avid fan of Mark's modern-day based fantasy (Age of Misrule etc), I had my doubts about a book based in historical times. Probably due to my failure to engage with the historical fiction of Philippa Gregory etc. And at first, you could well be reading one of those novels. Expect much better written; the detail is absolutely brilliant, I swear Chadbourn must have a time machine - it really feels like you're a part of 1500s. I feel like I know the characters as if they were old friends, and the world they inhabit as if it were my own back garden. And then, of course, something happens, and you remember you picked up this book in the fantasy section, and all is not in line with the history you learnt at school.

Chadbourn weaves a perfect blend of fantasy and reality, blurring the borders between the two. Swyfte is a likeable hero, and you find yourself strongly rooting for him from the get-go.

The ending to the main plot is somewhat predictable (we all know that the Spanish Armada failed, for example), however Chadbourn always likes to leave a curveball at the end, and this one leaves you reeling, and will have you gagging for the next book in the timeline as soon as possible.

Thoroughly recommended, even if you've never read any of Chadbourn's other works, or indeed any historical fantasy before; here, it works, and it will have you hooked.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read!!, 19 Feb 2011
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This is an interesting alternative view on Elizabethan times dealing with elves (and not the nice ones). I've read some of his other books and not been that impressed but this is a definite improvement and I'd recommend it to others.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As excellent as expected, 6 Sep 2010
This book follows in the style and universe of the Age of Misrule etc. It truly is one of those books which is hard to put down, and leaves you wanting more. My knowledge of history at the time this is set is somewhat shaky, but I would imagine given the depth of research evident in all other aspects of his writing, that you can use Chadbourn's book as a text book if you strip out the fiction. Although... given the reality that he creates, I find myself believing in Chadbourn's version of the world more and more, and hoping that it is true.

Although set in the same universe, there are subtle differences in how the players from the various factions operate, but this itself is consistent with the ever-changing nature of his universe. The book finishes conclusively, and I was afraid that it was a stand alone work, but I see that it is listed as Book 1, so here's hoping for the next to come very soon.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The 007 of Elizabethan times, 12 July 2010
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Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Mark is one of the stable British Writers of Fantasy today, you can virtually guarantee a reasonable novel that will not only win the reader over but of a level that will please the majority of Fantasy fans.

Departing from the fantasy set in modern times, we see an offering set in the Elizabethan period that seems to be coming very popular with other author. Add to the mix a touch of humour (with a Q like character) an international (or rather European) man of mystery and a whole host of villains from the fae world for the hero to over come and you know its going to be something a bit different. It is well written, the descriptiveness pretty tight and dialogue that will definitely win the reader over. A solid offering that will open a new branch into the fantasy world, I just hope he can maintain the quality with his second release.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Swashbuckling fun with a serious heart, 12 Mar 2011
The Sword of Albion is the tale of Will Swyfte: swordsman, adventurer, rake, and England's greatest spy. He is famed throughout the kingdom, thanks to ballads and pamphlets - so how can he work in secret when everyone knows who he is? The truth is that his real work is against an Enemy who have long known his identity, and his fight against them requires more than stealth and a ready rapier.

The story ranges from London to Edinburgh and down into the Iberian Peninsula, culminating in the attempted invasion of England by the Spanish - the famous armada of 1588. The action moves relentlessly from set-piece to set-piece, dragging the reader along in Swyfte's wake as he is repeatedly captured and makes another dramatic escape. Think James Bond meets Pirates of the Caribbean; not only would this make a great movie, but since Chadbourn is a scriptwriter as well, it reads like a great movie.

Will Swyfte is not an arrogant mysogynist like Bond, however. OK, so he indulges in wine and women (sometimes to excess) to blot out the memories of the terrible things he has to do for Queen and country, but at heart he is a romantic, haunted by the memory of his lost love. His companions, though getting much less of the limelight, are also complex, well-drawn characters with believable motivations, though some are decidedly less sympathetic than Will.

The historical setting is well-drawn, with enough detail to satisfy the Elizabethan buffs amongst us without slowing down the action. The filthiness and smelliness of London is sometimes laid on a little heavily, but it does provide a contrast with the elegant, blossom-fragrant citadels of Spain.

I have only a few small quibbles, mostly the nitpicking of a fellow writer that will probably go unnoticed by other readers. There are a few places where information is repeated, or spelt out in narrative immediately after it has been explained in dialogue. And in one scene, Will somehow manages to hold a rapier to a bad guy's throat and simultaneously whisper in his ear - pretty impressive with a blade that was normally around 36-40 inches! (I assume he is using the tip, since rapiers were not terribly sharp near the hilt). My attention did start to drift a little during the sea-battle, but that sort of thing is always hard to do in a novel. It wasn't badly written - quite the contrary - but every time the action shifted away from Will towards ships in combat, I just wanted to skip ahead to the next bit of derring-do :)

I was also a little disappointed that the Enemy resorted to mundane physical torture, when they are so good at the psychological kind, but I guess it had to be clear that they were capable of inflicting horrible torments on those Will cares about. On the other hand, kudos to Chadbourn for writing torture scenes that didn't give me nightmares. He sensibly focuses on the interrogation that is the point of the scene, rather than gratuitous descriptions of the torture itself. Books being so much more intimate a medium than film, it takes very little to make a strong impact on the engaged reader.

In summary, this is an entertaining page-turner with strong, sympathetic characters and a fascinating, terrifying setting - what more could one want from a fantasy novel? I for one am eagerly looking forward to reading more of Will's adventures...
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sword of Albion, 29 Jun 2011
This is a swashbuckling, supernatural Elizabethan spy story. Will Swyfte is England's greatest spy. He and his fellows work for Walsingham, supposedly fighting the Spanish, but in fact set against the shadowy Enemy. A malevolent force that has been terrorising the country for centuries.
The story is full of danger and intrigue, there's plenty of excitement and decent twists and turns along the way. Initially I thought it was a straightforward historical adventure with a sinisiter supernatural element - which I'm all for, historical fantasy is a favourite subgenre of mine. Towards the end I felt as though the story was going deeper, exploring the morality of what initially seemed to be a black and white conflict, and also examining how even monsters can be useful allies.
As well as the usual period touchstones (Dee the magician, the Spanish Armada, Christopher Marlowe, and of course Elizabeth herself) the story travels outside England to neighbouring Scotland and antagonistic Spain. I was pleased to see that we meet James VI of Scotland (later James I of England) before Elizabeth I ever appears - but I'm a sucker for Stuart history.
The alternative title is 'The Silver Skull', which makes sense as that's the central mcguffin. Then again if you are going to use 'Sword of Albion' - the rarely-used name for Walsingham's spies- you would use it for the British version.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Relentless, Rip Roaring Yarn, 16 Dec 2012
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This an Elizabethan James Bond story really, to sum up before I have even started!

There is even a 'Q' like gadget inventor called 'Dee'(you see what he's done there)

It's great fun and I enjoyed it a lot though it is not without its... well I won't call them faults, because that seems churlish in such an 'out there' fantasy. We are talking about fighting the faerie Court after all. But certain things did jar a little. For example, sometimes the 'others' seemed invincible; moving underwater, making people vanish into thin air, turning them into scarecrows or making them mad with a word. Yet our hero Will Swifte seemed able to best any number of them by simply laying about them with his trusty rapier at any time. It is also incredibly far fetched, but then so is Bond.

I also thought it was about 100 pages too long with the final confrontation coming a scene too late for my interest levels.... But!! it was action packed. Had some cracking side characters and cleverly used actual history as a huge wave on which to ride the surfboard of fantasy!! (It's time for my medication)

Spanish Galleons, giant hounds, magic masks, evil faeries and more sword fights than Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks put together! It's breathless non stop fun all waiting for you between the pages of this book.

Don't read it if you want genuine history and don't read if you want sinuous and subtle!
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