Mark Chadbourn Guest Post on the Age of Misrule Series: Mysterious Britain
(The stunning covers for the Age of Misrule series, art by John Picacio, design by Nicole Sommer-Lecht)
As we noted last week, Mark Chadbourn is a wonderfully talented fantasy writer just coming to the attention of a U.S. audience through his Age of Misrule series, which Pyr Books has released in three volumes spaced over the months of May, June, and July. Epic, substantial, and massively entertaining, World's End, Darkest Hour, and Always Forever are excellent examples of those blessed hybrids that make for excellent beach reading even as they manage to make you think. Chadbourn's premise? That the gods of Celtic mythology have returned, along with creatures like dragons, to our modern reality. The resulting clash takes place on a broad canvas while focusing on five flawed characters guided by a legendary champion to seek a resolution to the conflict. For once, too, a book's press release is correct, describing the Age of Misrule series as "one part Lord of the Rings, one part Illuminatus!, one part Arthurian romance, one part Harry Potter--100% original!"
Continuing a series of three guest posts from Chadbourn, here are his thoughts on "Mysterious Britain"...
MYSTERIOUS BRITAIN: FIVE FANTASTIC PLACES YOU PROBABLY DON’T KNOW
by Mark Chadbourn
From one perspective, Britain is as much a land of fantasy as Middle Earth. Over its thousands of years of history, it has accrued a great many mysterious and mystical places that still haunt the modern mind. My Age of Misrule sequence, which deals with the return of the Celtic gods to our time, can also be read as a magical mystery tour of Weird Britain. As part of the research, I spent six months on the road around the UK, sitting in stone circles on fiery summer dawns, creeping through haunted castles, stalking storm-lashed moors at twilight, all the time searching for the places that still resonated with the power of ancient days.
A lot of them have seeped into the global consciousness, but here are my top five lesser-known mysterious places, all of which feature in Age of Misrule:
Mary King’s Close, Edinburgh--Beneath the Scottish capital’s Old Town, lies a completely preserved street from one of Edinburgh’s darkest times. When the plague struck in 1645, quarantine was imposed. Legend says the still-surviving residents of Mary King’s Close were walled up to starve to prevent the plague spreading. It’s unlikely that people were really left to die when the street was sealed, but the underground rooms of the Close are still supposed to be one of the most haunted sites in the UK.
Tintagel Castle--The legendary birthplace of King Arthur on the coast of Cornwall in the south-west of England. Explore Merlin’s Cave. Or simply drink in the moody atmosphere of the ruined castle with the sea crashing on three sides.
Chalice Well, Glastonbury--Glastonbury has more than its fair share of mysterious places, from the tor with its secret entrance to the Celtic hell, to the Abbey where King Arthur is alleged to have been buried. The Chalice Well--linked to the Holy Grail as the name suggests--has been in use for more than two thousand years and has one of the potent spiritual atmospheres I’ve ever experienced.
Wandlebury Camp, Cambridgeshire--An Iron Age fort on the top of a hill not far from the world-famous Cambridge University. On moonlit nights, a ghostly warrior is supposed to ride out to challenge all-comers. There are legends of old gods carved in the chalk, giants, and a buried golden chariot.
Loch Ness--Everyone knows about the monster that’s supposed to lurk in the Scottish lake, but away from the water there are more interesting places. The area is rife with prehistoric sites--cairns, stones, mysterious carvings--and the magician Aleister Crowley once owned Boleskine House next to the loch where he was alleged to have conjured up a fearsome creature which still stalks the area. The whole area is hugely atmospheric.