I’m not usually a reader to become intrigued about a book based on the cover alone. This series is the exception – one of the blogs I follow posted an image of the cover of World’s End, the first book of Mark Chadbourn’s Age of Misrule trilogy, and I was immediately drawn in. Reading more about the trilogy and the two that follow on, and I was hooked.
As an aside, if you get a chance, check out the covers for the other US rereleases – they’re all as gorgeous as this one. If I was Mark Chadbourn, I would be so stoked with the cover art. Unfortunately, my books are a mixture of UK and US releases, based on what was available when I was searching out the books. I’m sorely tempted to rebuy them all in the US covers, to be honest.
Anyway. The covers are gorgeous, right? And the subject matter is so up my alley – technology fails around the world, and all of the figures from fantasy and myth come back into the real world. These books are set mostly in Britain, so it’s the Celtic gods we mostly see (though later books reveal that the gods of other countries also come back), as well as dragons. Some of the imagery of the gods and fantasy creatures is amazingly breathtaking, and it would be very easy to imagine this series as a whole becoming a very successful television series.
I did have some issues with the books, most of which are character based. All too much of the time the main characters come across as feeling more like stereotypes – there is effort made at rounding them out (usually in the form of tragedies that shape them), but it often feels like too little against the grandiose backdrop of the storyline.
The females also get pretty short shrift of things. I found it frustrating that they were clearly delineated as powerful characters, but they never really ended up feeling like they grew into that power. None of the characters ever really seemed to grasp the enormity of what was going on, and too often sank into petty squabbles. Which, sure, are going to happen, but when the world is ending and you’re supposed to be one of these amazing powerful people who are supposed to save it, you should rise about that, right? Hell, this is fiction, after all.
That said, I found the characters interesting enough to keep on reading for nine books. I still found myself frustrated with them many times – there are places where they all act out of character, and there are a couple of completely meaningless deaths and acts of violence against the characters (women especially, who very much end up being damsels in distress a lot of the time – though, to be fair, they do their own share of saving others as well).
I feel like Chadbourn has really made an effort to try to make all the characters feel human – flawed, making bad decisions, and all of it. Which makes them feel more real in one sense, but also makes them frustrating as heroic characters.
The whole series feels very much like it’s been written as a script, rather than a series of novels. This does allow for some amazing visuals, but it does at times, feel like there’s far too much reliance on showing and not telling. That said, telling the story instead of showing it isn’t the be all and end all of everything, but it does tend to make characters feel more like cardboard cutouts than real people. And yes, I know that I’m pretty much contradicting myself here, but this series kind of lends itself to contradiction.
If you love Celtic myth and dystopic fiction, likely you’ll find enough (as I did) to keep you reading this series. I will most probably come back to this for a reread at some time in the future when I don’t have a wall of books to be read. And I do think it could make an amazing television series, if the characters were worked on a little more. Some people might find the characters too frustrating for words, and find that they want to toss the books against the wall.
For all of my complaints, the characters made enough impact on me that I find myself thinking about them a lot, even while I want to slap the lot of them upside the head 😉 I can definitely recommend giving this series a go, just don’t blame me if you throw the book against the wall 😉