Dark North (Malory’s Knights of Albion) – Paul Finch (Abaddon Books)
THE UNTOLD STORIES OF THE ROUND TABLE. When King Arthur faces a challenge for his crown from the reinvigorated Roman Empire, he must call his supporters from every corner of the British Isles. One of these, Sir Lucan the Black Wolf of the North has more reason than most to join the coming campaign. Lucan’s beautiful wife, Trelawna, hoping to lead a new, better life in Italy, absconded with a young Roman officer. Lucan, already a fierce warrior but now with tainted blood due to his battle with the Penharrow Worm, thus turns the mission into a bitter personal vendetta. His former squire, Alaric, soon comes to fear for his overlord’s soul, but is more afraid still for the safety of Lady Trelawna, whom he always loved from a distance. Meanwhile, the Roman family Trelawna has fallen in with are the influential Malconi clan, and their matriarchal head is the sorceress Zenobia. She sees it as her motherly duty to stop Lucan with any demonic force she can summon…
Stark, deep and bordering on tragedy from the first page onwards, as with the previous titles in this series, the use of appendix and notes to describe what would have been the norm at the time adds brilliantly to the solid descriptive backbone that the story of Sir Lucan’s legend is built on, ‘Dark North’ is very much a return to the traditional style of sword and sorcery, full of interesting battles and dark sorcery, the kind of stuff that originally hooked on the genre as a youngster.
Lucan himself is a very interesting character, a trusted knight of King Arthur who has held the ‘Dark North’ in the name of the kingdom, has led a tortured existence, from childhood, weighed down by his Fathers brutal legacy whilst watching his poor mother work herself to death to take care of her children, he’s constantly trying to prove his honour and thus hopefully not transform from childhood victim into the adult monster he’s expected to be. The cast of characters, both on the side of New Rome and the subjects of Camelot’s great kingdom are incredible, his wife, again via tragic circumstance brought on through war, his squire Alaric who is in love with Lucan’s wife, her true love leading her into betrayal and every single event in the relationship that helps leads to an amazing finish, is worthy of a full follow on novel in itself. I was concerned that after the last book in ‘Malory’s Knights of Albion’ nothing would be able to follow it or be its equal, but ‘Dark North’ did. Whilst it didn’t maintain the same sort of easy pace keep the same easy pace, it still demanded and rewards the readers full attention. Gav