by Jadrien Bell
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Jadrien Bell has written an apocalyptic novel that weaves together the myths, legends and prophecies of the Celts, Norse and Christians in a complex and absorbing manner set in A.D. 999. Rather than focus his forces on Har Megiddo in the Middle East, Satan has elected to bring about the end of the world in England during the reign of Ethelred Unraed (978-1013, 1016). In order to bring his plans to fruition, Satan allies himself with the Norse god Loki and the Unseelie Court.
These forces of evil are opposed by the two witnesses foretold in the Book of the Revelation of St. John, in this case, Alwyn, a crippled monk, and Kennag nic Beathag, a pagan witch. In a world in which fear and suspicion of the "other" was common, these two must overcome their mutual distrust and convince each other not to dismiss the others beliefs out of hand. Unfortunately, while Bell has created interesting characters ranging from Loki and Satan to Alwyn and Kennag, few of the characters interactions and relationships fully come to life.
Throughout the novel, Bell introduces characters, such as Neddy the ghost or Cabal the novice, and attempts to create an air of mystery around them. This generally fails, as these characters true identities tend to be quite obvious. However, in at least one case of fulfilled prophecy, the implications of the manner in which the prophetic events occur are staggering.
Of course, the main prophecy Bell is concerned with is the end of the world as foretold in Revelations. She does a masterful job of explaining the events which must presage the coming of the end and then giving the reader reasonably subtle reminders of the prophecy as events warrant. Frequently, the manner of fulfilling the prophecies is clever and unexpected.
Even as Alwyn and Kennag race across England and the Norse marauders harry the English coast, there is little feel that the end of the millennium is having an effect on the majority of people. Even Ethelred, whose advisor Angelo is trying to convince him that he should usurp the throne of the Holy Roman Emperor in time for the millennium, does not seem to be acting with any real sense of urgency.
While there may not be a tremendous amount of suspense over whether or not Alwyn and Kennag will succeed, there are the questions of how they will succeed and how much damage Satan and Loki will manage to cause as they attempt to bring about Armageddon and Ragnorok. Furthermore, the reader gets the impression that at some point there will be a betrayal between Satan and Loki and this also brings a heightening of tension to the novel.
Not without its faults, A.D. 999 weaves legends together in ways that seem logical and allows their disparate features to complement each other. The ideas and their presentations are done well enough that readers who enjoy this book will be pleased to learn that "Jadrien Bell" has published several more novels and stories under her real name, Christie Golden.
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