Agony Column Home
Agony Column Review Archive

Darkest Hour: Book Two of the Age of Misrule

Mark Chadbourn

Victor Gollancz / Orion Books

UK Hardcover First

ISBN 0-575-06681-4

471 Pages ; £17.99

Date Reviewed: 02-25-02

Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel



Horror, Fantasy

03-14-02 (Interview), 04-29-02, 12-13-02, 01-27-03, 03-26-03

Center books in trilogies have the hardest job of any single part. Neither the beginning or the end, they have to build on what preceded them and set up for what follows. You've probably just finished 'World's End' if you're reading this review. If not, you should. This is not a work of series fiction where one novel can be read independently of the others. It's one long fantasy quest, set in a rapidly changing present day reality, where science has stopped working and magic and superstition have become the dominant paradigm. That said, 'Darkest Hour' does everything it is supposed to do and more. It promises that the quest will end in the next novel, for one thing. For another it just rocks.

'Darkest Hour' begins as the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons begin the fight against the Fomorii in earnest. The Fomorii are trying to bring back something Very Very Bad and Very Very Big. It will mean the end of everything. With one quest completed, another begins. What Chadbourn does increasingly well in this novel is both examine the characters and examine the world he has created. He takes the opportunity to show the surreal side of his fantasy world, where TV dinners collide with ancient myths and beings. It's a very interesting take on all of the fantasy worlds that you've read about or simply grokked when you saw the glossy paperbacks with the dragons and swordsmen in the bookstore. Yes these books have covers that are very similar -- but note that behind the dragon is a modern suburb.

Ley lines, Edinburgh Castle, Rosslyn Chapel -- a whole host of current fortean sites are brought up to supernatural speed in 'Darkest Hour'. The characters take some unpleasant turns, and the Tuatha De Dannan find themselves threatened by the bacteria they once deigned not to care about. As the title might indicate, it's a bleak and rather depressing novel. Thankfully, we already know that it's not the end. And, even better, we know that the end is in sight. If you've made it through the first two parts of this trilogy, you'll want to be on hand for the conclusion.