fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsepic fantasy book review Mark Chadbourn The Dark Age 1. The Devil in GreenThe Devil in Green by Mark Chadbourn

The Devil in Green takes place shortly after the end of Always Forever, the final book in Mark Chadbourn‘s Age of Misrule trilogy, which described the return to our lands of legendary creatures and gods, so old and powerful that their memories became the basis for many of our myths. Now the final battles are (seemingly) over, and humanity slowly tries to come to terms with the realities of the new Dark Age, society as we know it is practically gone: electricity, fuel and communication are virtually non-existent, and the Tuathe De Danaan are still abroad.

In this fractured version of more or less present-day U.K., the old faiths have lost much of their allure and power, but remnants of Christianity have banded together to provide a bastion of light, with a reformed Knights Templar serving as the muscle to protect the brethren and help spread the word across the land. It’s towards this military-religious group that two of the novel’s protagonists, Miller and Mallory, are both running, each for their own individual reasons that are revealed later in the novel.

Aside from a few info-dumps here and there (e.g. a quick lecture-summary of the history of the Knights Templar), The Devil in Green is a well-paced and enjoyable story. We’re thrown right into the action from page one with a truly hectic chase scene, and as soon as the characters get a chance to catch their breaths, Mark Chadbourn does a good job illustrating their distinct personalities and styles with a few deft strokes. As they enter the military-style training of the Knights, we get a good bit of soldierly camaraderie between Mallory, Miller and their new mates Gardener and Daniels — including an unauthorized excursion to a nearby Travellers’ camp, where we meet Sophie, the novel’s spiritual parallel to the Age of Misrule’s Ruth. Mallory quickly emerges as an authority-averse cynic in the vein of Bill Murray’s character in the movie Stripes (with the Knights’ captain Blaine being a much less good-natured version of the movie’s Sergeant “Big Toe” Hulka).

While this first novel in the Dark Age trilogy can technically be read independently from the Age of Misrule books, readers who are familiar with that earlier trilogy will have a decidedly different perspective on the activities of the Knights and their leadership early on. To get the full experience of The Devil in Green, I recommend picking up World’s End, Darkest Hour, and Always Forever first. This way, you’ll also be treated to John Picacio‘s gorgeous cover illustrations for those novels, which seem to be echoed, book by book, in the new Dark Age trilogy, with the cover of The Devil in Green thematically connected to World’s End. If only all fantasy novels were published in such handsome, thoughtful editions.

Mark Chadbourn initially does an excellent job balancing the different faces and facets of religion, from simple, heartfelt spirituality to the unbalanced prejudice of strict dogma, but as the novel progresses, the latter comes more and more to the forefront. With all the brethren and knights trapped inside their compound, almost as if stuck on an island, the novel increasingly reminded me of Lord of the Flies with adult Christians. Let’s just say that, if you took offense to Philip Pullman‘s His Dark Materials trilogy, The Devil in Green is probably not for you.

Regardless of your (or Chadbourn‘s) feelings about organized religion, The Devil in Green, like the Age of Misrule trilogy, is an enjoyable and fun (if dark) read, once again filled with realistic, current, eternally bickering characters, interesting mythological and historical tidbits, and a gripping, edge-of-your-seat story. Unfortunately the final few chapters take a turn for the worse, with a couple of deus ex machina escapes and a chaotic and rushed resolution. Despite the ending, which mars what would otherwise be an excellent read, I definitely look forward to the second book in the Dark Age trilogy, The Queen of Sinister, due out from Pyr in June 2010.

The Dark Age — (2002-2005) Publisher: Humanity has emerged, blinking, from the Age of Misrule into a world substantially changed: cities lie devasted, communications are limited, anarchy rages across the land. Society has been thrown into a new Dark Age where superstition holds sway. The Tuatha De Danaan roam the land once more, their terrible powers dwarfing anything mortals have to offer. And in their wake come all the creatures of myth and legend, no longer confined to the shadows. Fighting to find their place in this new world, the last remnants of the Christian Church call for a group of heroes: a new Knights Templar to guard the priesthood as they set out on their quest for souls. But as everything begin to fall apart, the Knights begin to realise their only hope is to call on the pagan gods of Celtic myth for help…

Mark Chadbourn The Dark Age 1. The Devil in Green 2. The Queen of Sinister 3. The Hounds of AvalonMark Chadbourn The Dark Age 1. The Devil in Green 2. The Queen of Sinister 3. The Hounds of AvalonMark Chadbourn The Dark Age 1. The Devil in Green 2. The Queen of Sinister 3. The Hounds of Avalon


  • Stefan Raets

    STEFAN RAETS (on FanLit's staff August 2009 — February 2012) reads and reviews science fiction and fantasy whenever he isn’t distracted by less important things like eating and sleeping.