3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Swashbuckling fun with a serious heart,
This review is from: The Sword of Albion: The Sword of Albion Trilogy Book 1 (Paperback)
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...