Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Calatin, I am your father

Oh lord, where to begin with this.

Back on track with my original plan, and just finished Mark Chadbourn's second book in his Age of Misrule trilogy, Darkest Hour. Which, given the narrative in this one, is a very appropriate description.

A the end of the first, the 5 Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, plus their guide True Tom the Rhymer, had managed to drive back the Formorii with the help of the 4 wonderous objects. Which of course, the Tuatha de Danaan took back to Tir na Nog with them, after pretty much telling the companions that they weren't worth anything. (Because seriously, both the golden skinned Tuatha de Danaan and the Fomorii, despite the fact they use the Fragile Creatures to accomplish their goals, seem to think of humans as bacteria at best.)

We have a bit of a retcon during the introduction, written in this case by a very minor character from the first book, who helped them find one of the sacred objects, who passes on that Laura and Church have become something of an item.

Anyway, early on, Ruth gets kidnapped, and one of her fingers gets left pointing the way.

So, Church, Laura, Tom, Veitch, and Shavi head to Edinburgh, having been given the deadline to stop the rebirth of Balor by Lughnasadh (AKA August 1st) and hopefully rescue Ruth in the process. Ruth, who's being held prisoner by Calatin and his Formor faction, is slowly being tutored in magic by her owl familiar. Well, until Calatin forces her to swallow the Heart of Shadows, thus impregnating her with Balor.

In the meantime, after advice from a bunch of dead Celts, who also pass on that someone in the group is or will be a traitor, Church and Tom go forth to awaken the Well of Fire, Laura and Shavi go to free Maponus, and Veitch goes to rescue Ruth. While this does have the desired effect of rescuing ruth AND destroying the Formorii stronghold, it does free Maponus (who went insane prior to imprisonment) who does manage to drive off the Calleach Bheur, but then he's on the rampage, along with a few dragons who'd been sleeping in the well.

Which of course leads to a merry chase to safety in some form. We find out Jack's Tuatha de Danaan patron is Niamh, who makes him promise to break off relations with Laura and love her. In return, she'll take care of Maponus.

Once all is made clear as to what's going on in Ruth's belly, the group splits again. Church, Laura, and Ruth stay in a holy place hopefully unseen by Formorii, while Shavi heads south to find Herne/Cernunnos in hopes he can save Ruth. Tom and Veitch head north to ask for help from Tom's old "patron", The Queen of Elfland. (According to wiki, she's synonymous with Mab, which makes sense in terms of her court.)

Needless to say, much like any middle chapter in a trilogy, things don't exactly end well in this book, although we're given a glimpse of hope at the end. Yes, Balor is awake, but he won't end the world until Samhaine, so there are ways to proceed. Of course, that means freeing everyone from various predicaments left unresolved at the end.

This installment deals with some very dark themes in places, like Shavi's ex-boyfriend's ghost coming every night to tell him horrible things as payment for help earlier in the book. On the othe rhand, there are wonders to be found here as well, like Cerridwyn restoring forest primeval to Scotland, the Oak Men, and Princess Diana's locket restoring hope.

With one of the overarching themes so far being one of balance, it makes sense that wonder and terror coexist so well in this series. And even the terrors are wonders of their own, as the Dragons destroy, they are magnificent creatures to behold.

I'm really looking forward to the last book in this series now, even if I'm jokingly wondering what will be the Sarlacc pit on Tattoine moment in the finale.