‘A highly original modern fantasy from one of the rising stars of British SFF. Real, archetypal, heartfelt and playful’ – Paul Cornell
‘Excellent! Dark and light and brilliant’ – Miles Cameron
Somewhere in England, in a small town called Strange Ground by the Skea, Ebbie Wren is the last librarian and he’s about to lose his job. Estranged from his parents, unable to make connections with anyone except the old homeless lady who lives near the library, Ebbie isn’t quite sure what he’s supposed to do next. His only escape from reality is his deep interest in local folklore, but reality is far stranger than Ebbie can dream.
On the other side of the sky and the sea, the Queen of House Wood Bee has been murdered. Her sister has made the first move in a long game, one which will lead her to greatness, yet risk destruction for the entire Realm. She needs the two magical stones Foresight and Hindsight for her power to be complete, but no one knows where they are. Although the sword recently stolen by Bek Rana, small time thief and not very good at it, might hold a clue to their location . . . and to stopping the chaos. But all Bek wants is to sell the sword and buy herself a better life. She’s not interested in being a hero, and neither is Ebbie.
But someone is forcing their hand and playing for the heart of the Realm. Ebbie and Bek are destined to unite. They must find a way to stop the destruction of House Wood Bee, save the Realm, and just maybe save themselves in the process. All victories come at a price. The Oldungods are rising. And they are watching…
Ebbie Wren is thrust into a world that he probably never even asked for in the first place. Perils, challenges and obstacles face him at every turn. Mysterious and histories are there for him to unravel at many points within the story. A mysterious bridge known as the Janus Bridges connected him to a fascinating place called the Realm, and he discovers a new world full of mystery and wonder. This is Narnia for adults, ladies and gentlemen. This is the dark version of Narnia, except it doesn’t end up becoming grim-dark at the end. This novel that combines fantasy, feels just right for this era. Either way, this should become another brilliant adaptation of a TV show. Either by Netflix or Amazon.
There are many ways to summarise this story: The Oldunones are Gods, certainly, but they get bored and therefore they reenact events similar to Ancient Troy quite often. Ebbie Wren and Bek Rana find themselves quite often entangled in this mess. It is quite a clever connection that Edward does by combining Greek/Roman mythology and thus infuses that with English/Celtic mythology. It felt like a well-connected crossover. However, I didn’t feel much of the Greek and Roman elements that I felt should have been emphasized in this world. This world has its typical mages and orcs, but that was to be expected given such that writing a cross over between religions that are now no longer possible, is not an easy feat to do so.
There are fascinating worlds here, and I can’t quite describe them accurately, but there are tons of ships, cities of enormous sizes, creatures and magic and so much more. It’s an action-packed world that reminds me of playing my adventures in Elder Scrolls Online really. In fact, if you have played it, I would describe it as a mix of Daggerfall and Summerset Isles, especially for the mythical realm. I also found that Ebbie is indeed a hero, a righteous man that has to make some terrible decisions, and Mai often kept guiding him even after she passed from this world. She may have been the Empress of the Wood Bee Realm once upon a time, but her neglect of her daughters caused this to thrust itself into Ebbie’s life, and without wanting to spoil much, it is one of the most fascinating journeys I’ve been upon.
Some criticism I had is: There needs to be a glossary and a map. Those two things would definitely help especially for the sequel. There were many worlds in this novel that I wanted to explore, perhaps explore Eastern Realms with different Gods? I mean if we have Greek Gods here, why not have the Gods of Egypt? An Egyptian crossover would be so cool. Maybe the Gods of Carthage? Additionally, I felt some scenes were paced well during the later stages of the novel, but sometimes the plot became a bit over-stretched and veered off of the rails before regaining pace again, mostly due to the character arcs of some minor characters. I feel like the author wanted to write much more, and I want to explore this world. I loved Mai but often felt her omnipresence within the story didn’t work for me during the last stages of the novel. I felt this novel could easily have been another 300 pages long. Because there was so much in this world, that it needed that expansion. I hope book 2 is bigger!
Overall, great characterization, great writing, and a great story. I was thoroughly hooked…this is Narnia for adults. I give this a 10/10.