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The Devil In Green
Mark Chadbourn
Gollancz, 453 pages

The Devil In Green
Mark Chadbourn
Mark Chadbourn's writing career began in 1990 when his first published short story won the Best New Author award in Fear magazine. His first novel, Underground, was followed by Nocturne (nominated for British Fantasy Society Award for Best Novel), The Eternal, and Scissorman. He has also written a non-fiction study of the paranormal, Testimony.

Mark Chadbourn Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: World's End
Mark Chadbourn Message Board
Interview with Mark Chadbourn

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

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'"The Bishop, the canons, all of them... You don't put your trust in people who set themselves up as leaders, Miller. In religion, in politics, in the military, in business… the simple act of seeking high office is a signifier of a peculiar, unreliable, controlling, unpleasant pathology that means they shouldn't be allowed any kind of power."'
The Devil in Green is the first book of the Dark Age series, the follow up to Mark Chadbourn's Age of Misrule trilogy. It begins about a year after what has come to be known as the Fall. Existence needs a new batch of heroes, as humanity struggles to recover, cowed by the lack of technology and industry, plus the terrifying knowledge that we are no longer the highest life form. The British countryside has become a deadly place, inhabited by supernatural animals, and ancient creatures remembered in legend as faerie folk or demons. At Salisbury Cathedral, the remnants of the Christian church are making a new start, getting ready to spread the Word, and training an army of Knights Templar. One of the new recruits is Mallory, who believes in nothing, and is running from a past which he would rather forget. Mallory is destined to become one of the new Brothers of Dragons. Outside of the cathedral is an alternative to the resurgent church, in the form of a Pagan camp, calling themselves the Celtic Nation. Their number includes a skilled white witch named Sophie Tallent, who is also a Sister of Dragons. Mallory and Sophie meet, but their embryonic relationship is cut short when Mallory and his company are sent on a rescue mission, which turns into a disaster. After various encounters with the supernatural, he makes his way back to Salisbury, only to find the cathedral transformed. It has become a shifting, Gothic nightmare, besieged by what appears to be a demonic army. This terror without is matched by an inhuman murderer that has somehow found its way inside the cathedral. Soon it becomes clear that nobody is safe.
'"It's still difficult to comprehend,' Daniels said introspectively. We don't know what's out there, in the hills and the fields, in the night."

"We never did." Mallory replied. "I reckon they were always there... sleeping, if you like, hidden away... but they were there, waiting for their time to come around again."'

The difference between this book, and the first in the preceding Age of Misrule series, is that characters and plot are pared down. In the first series, Chadbourn presented a kaleidoscope of interesting ideas, events, side stories and characters. The Devil in Green is focused more tightly, covering only the immediate events in the lives of two of the new Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, and a single major plot element. However, Chadbourn's skills with dialogue and characterisation remain sharp, for the most part. This time around, the Golden Ones make disappointingly few appearances, and the Fomorii are entirely absent.

Chadbourn just about gets away with this, but knocks down a hurdle or two when it comes to the big questions about what has happened elsewhere in the world. Why is it that electrical technology appears dead, but electromechanical hardware, such as motor vehicles, still works?

Did the Fall destroy all the human governments and armies on Earth? I found the answers evasive, unconvincing, or simply absent. But perhaps these issues will be more adequately addressed as the series progresses.

'"There are things beyond this place that occasionally pay an interest in your world. It is best not to discuss them." He stared toward the dawn, his eyes reflecting the morning light.

"But something has stirred beyond the lip of the universe and it has noticed you… something so terrible that even the Golden Ones fear it." He looked to Mallory and Sophie sombrely.

"And it is coming this way."'

As the story progresses, I sometimes struggled to remain convinced by the motivations of Mallory and Sophie, and some of the actions of the supporting characters. For example, when a Knight who has been indirectly responsible for the sexual mutilation of another is convinced that the victim will want his company! Nevertheless, Chadbourn concocts some impressive plot devices; among them an invincible regenerating monster, Llyrwyn a supernatural sword which has a corrupt brother that sounds a lot like Stormbringer, and the majestic Devil in Green of the title. The plot of the cathedral besieged by supernatural forces does, on occasions, seem to drag a little, and some scenes are telegraphed. Chadbourn does a fine job of showing how religion can easily become corrupted by the agendas of unstable fundamentalists, and that blind faith in leaders -- or anything -- will get you killed. But he is somewhat sparing when it comes to depicting evil done in the name of God. When we encounter the horrors inflicted by the new Inquisition, it's usually after the fact.

In summary, The Devil In Green has enough to keep the pot bubbling nicely, but future titles will need the heat turning up and a few more exotic ingredients lobbed in.

Copyright © 2004 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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