Title: The Houds of Avalon
Author: Mark Chadbourn
Published: 08 June 2006
There are some writers who build whole new worlds and some who raise questions about the world we are already in. Mark Chadbourn has created his own brand of urban fantasy by building a story around the myth and legends surrounding the British Isles and asking what if these old Gods and creatures of myth and legend returned?
The Hounds of Avalon sees a diminished British government coping as best it can when an unstoppable army of mystical creatures attack with intention of eliminating everyone in their tracks as they march towards Oxford, the government’s new home. Their only hope of salvation is the actions of those chosen to be champions of humanity; those known as the Brother and Sisters of Dragons. But the government doesn’t realise how important they really are.
To say more about the plot would end up with me getting in a muddle, giving away spoilers and confusing you. Because, unofficially, this is book six in the series and book three in the second story arc, so a lot has gone on already to get to this point (see here for details).
You can read it as a standalone but some of the significance of the events and characters might pass a new reader by. Though saying all that Chadbourn does a grand job keeping the events self-contained enough so that the story works in its own terms and is accessible enough for new readers and those of us who has left it a while between books.
What’s impressive is the amount of action, information, and emotion that Chadbourn builds into each page. His skill is how he weaves the exploration of what it is to be human with a story of what could be the last moments of the human race. He shows how we all deal with situations differently; some of us hide away, some of stand and fight, but in the end we all have a role and we can’t always see the role we play or how vital it is.
Chadbourn’s other strength is that he sets a lot of different threads in motion, some placed books ago, as he recalls to the roster characters who had fulfilled their jobs in previous books and it seemed that they had no further role to play.
As a storyteller he keeps the reader moving along a roller coaster that could come off the tracks any second and the characters could fail in their missions and the world could end before they have chance to fight back. One thing he does show is that there is always hope. Oh, and the end really isn’t the end.
Personally I’d say read all the previous books as Chadbourn is a master storyteller and all the other books in the series are tell different parts of the tale but stand in their own right as masterpieces of fantasy.
An excellent end to The Dark Age sequence and sets us up for the next one with The King of Serpents and the first book, Jack of Ravens.