The Hounds of Avalon is the third book in Mark Chadbourn’s DARK AGE trilogy, which continues the story of England after the Fall described in the author’s earlier AGE OF MISRULE trilogy. A noticeable difference between the two trilogies is that the AGE OF MISRULE follows the same group of five main characters, the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, throughout all three books. The DARK AGE trilogy introduces one set of characters in book 1, The Devil in Green, and then surprisingly introduces all new characters in book 2, The Queen of Sinister. The Hounds of Avalon, somewhat annoyingly, initially starts off with yet another batch of new characters in the first pages of its opening chapter (my first major source of annoyance with this novel) but then gradually brings all the story lines together.
In the end, The Hounds of Avalon isn’t any worse or better than the previous books in the trilogy. It’s just more — frankly too much more — of the same. The new characters that are introduced are immediately recognizable, and their interactions follow by now predictable patterns. It’s all too familiar. As a result, I had a hard time staying interested in the novel, because it felt like the series is moving in circles rather than moving forward.
One aspect of these books that should be highlighted is the set of gorgeous cover illustrations by John Picacio. They’re thematically appropriate and instantly recognizable, connecting all the books effectively. You just can’t help but notice them on the shelves. The cover illustration for The Hounds of Avalon is one of the stronger ones of the series, on a par with the memorable and terrifying cover of the opening book of the first trilogy, World’s End, which was rightfully nominated for a Chesley award.
If you absolutely loved the previous books in the AGE OF MISRULE and DARK AGE trilogies and are dying to find out how the story continues, The Hounds of Avalon will probably be right up your alley. If, like me, you weren’t falling over yourself to get to this book, especially after the comparative let-down of The Queen of Sinister, you’ll probably be even more disappointed in The Hounds of Avalon.
It takes quite a lot for me to give up on a novel, especially after already having read five books in the series, but while I could recognize The Hounds of Avalon’s qualities and see why some readers might gobble this one up, I finally realized that I just didn’t have any interest in finding out where the story was going. After having read about a third of the novel, I pronounced the Eight Deadly Words and decided to move on to something else.