The Devil’s Looking Glass (The Swords Of Albion book 3) by Mark Chadbourn (book review).

June 27, 2015 | By | Reply More

England is on the verge of war with the Unseelie Court and their powerful Fay subjects. This is unlikely to be a war that England can win and only the magician John Dee has the power to keep them away and save the realm. Yet Dee is far away, kidnapped by Red Meg, who certainly gets more than she bargained for when Dee’s personal defences kick in. Following them across the seas to unknown shores, Will Swyfte and his fellow spies must retrieve Dee and bring him home to England before the land is overrun with Fay. Battling monstrous enemies, navigating enchanted islands and racing to get to Dee before the Fay do, the spies must be willing to give up their lives for their country. The fate of the world lies on Will’s shoulders but, as he comes close to finally learning what happened to his long lost love, Jenny, it may be that he will sacrifice his friends and even his country for one more moment with her. Then the world would truly be doomed…

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Once again, Mark Chadbourn takes us on a thrilling Elizabethan adventure in ‘The Devil’s Looking Glass’, the third and final book in his ‘Swords Of Albion’ series. This book follows immediately on from the events of the previous book, ‘The Scar-Crow Men’, and I’d recommend not leaving too long between them as it’s really one story divided into two instalments.

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The copy of this book that I have is a paperback published in the USA by Pyr and it has a truly awful cover that looks like it belongs on the front of a steamy romance, but please don’t let this terrible cover art put you off. ‘The Devil’s Looking Glass’ is, like the previous books in this series, an adventure story set in Elizabethan times and filled with action, suspense, plenty of swash and buckle and a good dose of creepy supernatural beings to top it off. The pace is pretty fast, but nicely varied with moments of tenderness and some thought-provoking scenes that allow you to stop and catch your breath. It’s a book I read in two sittings, only stopping when I could keep my eyes open no longer!

I’ve really enjoyed watching the characters progress through this series and, though Will may be the leading character, for me, it has been the relationship between Launceston and Carpenter that I’ve really admired. I said it when I reviewed the second book and I’ll say it again, it’s wonderful to see such attention paid to a platonic relationship. The Fay were perhaps a little disappointing in ‘The Devil’s Looking Glass’. They feature as individuals much more prominently in this book than in previous books but I’d have liked them to come across as properly scary instead of just another bunch of folk with their own petty political rivalries and ambitions. It’s a minor criticism and one that’s to personal taste rather than one that negatively affects the story so I can’t complain too much.

Indeed, I really don’t have a lot to complain about at all. It’s been a cracking series, albeit one with a slow start and has renewed my fascination with Elizabethan times as there are several biographies of key figures sitting on my ‘to read’ pile just now. It’s got a great blend of history, action and supernatural elements and I think the attention to detail is pretty marvellous. This is a great adventure novel that I think would work for fans of historical fiction as well as the fantasy-lovers, so maybe a good one to tempt new folk into the genre. If you’re already a convert, then what are you waiting for?

Vinca Russell

June 2015

(pub: Pyr/Prometheus Books, 2013. 310 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $17.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61614-700-6

(pub: Bantam Press/Transworld. 444 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £17.99 UK), $17.95(CAN). ISBN: 978-0-553-82022-5)

check out websites: www.pyrsf.com, www.transworldbooks.co.uk and www.markchadbourn.com

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