(The stunning covers for the Age of Misrule series, art by John Picacio, design by Nicole Sommer-Lecht)
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, even as science begins to fail. It's a nice subversion of standard fantasy tropes.
Check out this nicely atmospheric prologue to the first book:
"And now the world turns slowly from the light. Not with the cymbal clash of guns and tanks, but with the gently plucked harp of shifting moods and oddly lengthening shadows, the soft tread of a subtle invasion, not here, then here, and none the wiser. Each morning the sun still rises on supermarket worlds of plastic and glass, on industrial estates where slow trucks lumber in belches of diesel, on cities lulled by the whirring of disk drives breaking existence down into digitised order. People still move through their lives with the arrogance of rulers who know their realm will never fall. Several weeks into the new Dark Age, life goes on as it always has, oblivious to the passing of the Age of Reason, of Socratic thought and Apollonian logic...No one had noticed. But they would. And soon.
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!"
A fascination with secret places, mythology, and the supernatural infuses the Age of Misrule, and Chadbourn has been kind enough to give Amazon readers an exclusive glimpse at some of the real underpinnings of his books. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll run two more pieces from Chadbourn, one on "Mysterious Britain" and the other on "The Real-World Roots of Fantasy." For now, though...