The Devil In Green is the first book in The Dark Age trilogy by Mark Chadbourn. The Dark Age follows the Age of Misrule trilogy, which tells of the sudden appearance of magic in the world and how it affected humanity. Even though The Devil In Green was just released at the end of May, the middle book (The Queen of Sinister) is already available and the final book in the trilogy (The Hounds of Avalon) is scheduled for publication on July 27 of this year in the US (these books are already out in the UK). There will also be a third trilogy that ties in to the rest of the series.
In the previous trilogy, magic entered the world suddenly and without explanation, disrupting the modern world. People found themselves staring up at strange flying beasts, surrounded by the supernatural and in the midst of a battle of the gods from ancient mythologies. Humanity was forced to adapt to a completely different role in the universe – one in which mere survival was a struggle in a Dark Age where magic, not technology, was the source of power.
In England, the Christian church has responded by joining together several denominations to work together by reinstating a new order of the Knights Templar. Many people have reacted to the appearance of gods by leaving the church and the number of dedicated Christians is dwindling. A man running from his past, Mallory, has decided to travel to Salisbury to become a knight even though he has a rather cynical view toward faith and God. However, he figures it’s a decent job since they’ll take care of food and board and they’ll be willing to take anyone, even someone who doesn’t attempt to hide his disbelief. On the way to the church, Mallory saves a man named Miller from an attack by dangerous creatures. Miller is also on his way to join the Knights Templar, but unlike Mallory he wants to give something back to people and the Christian God he has come to believe in so strongly.
It doesn’t take long for Mallory to become suspicious of this new church with its secrecy surrounding the knowledge contained in its library and the mysterious missions the elite knights undertake. As he encounters more supernatural forces, he becomes more unsure of what is happening and his role in events.
From the opening pages, Mark Chadbourn establishes a very dark atmosphere. Magic has entered the world, but unlike in a lot of contemporary fantasy, it didn’t integrate easily with the supernatural and humans occupying the world and learning to live with each other. Rather, the emergence of gods and magical creatures destroyed the modern world, leading to a new dark age. Many urban fantasies I’ve read try to establish a government agency to regulate magic, but The Devil In Green does not go this route; the supernatural is too chaotic for that and anarchy reigns. None of the creatures seem close to human – even if the mythical beings do not all seem malevolent, they have an otherworldliness about them. Remnants form the modern age are strewn here and there, such as the occasional car, but since fuel is no longer easy to obtain, most people travel by walking or horse. The worldwide communication that has become so much a part of everyday life is no more, and people are unsure of what is happening throughout the nation in which they live. This new age feels very bleak and dangerous and not very much like the times we live in at all.
Occasionally I felt like I probably would have gotten more from this novel if I had read the previous trilogy. This is not to say it was difficult to follow what was happening, but I did get the impression that certain parts would have had more relevance had I been familiar with the other books, particularly some references to characters that I guessed had been in the first trilogy (and some research showed that they were in fact in it).
While I found the world very intriguing, there were times that the book seemed to move very slowly and I had some trouble really immersing myself in it. This may have been at least partially due to the fact that I just didn’t have much time while I was reading it and ended up sometimes reading 5 pages at a time whenever I could snatch a few moments, which never makes for the best reading experience. Plus I never found myself all that attached to any of the characters, although I liked them well enough. The contrast between Mallory’s cynicism and Miller’s optimism made for some interesting conversations, and with Mallory’s vast knowledge about everything from history to philosophy it really made me want to know more about his past (and I still do because by the end I still wasn’t sated when it came to details about where his life before traveling to Salisbury to become a knight).
This is not a book I’d recommend to someone easily offended by dissection of Christian beliefs. Although Miller is completely dedicated to his faith, he’s portrayed as someone who does not really understand the way in which the world works. Nor is the church painted in the best light, although there were a few people who seemed both devout and honest. It does seem to have a rather dismal view of organized religion and leadership in general, which is further enhanced by Mallory’s negative response to just about anything:
“You’re obviously an educated man. But don’t confuse the Church with the people who claim to administer God’s Word,” James cautioned. “Humans are fallible.”
“Pardon me for pointing it out, but you seem to have had a fair share of the fallible in your history,” Mallory countered, unmoved. [pp. 33]
The Devil In Green excels at its portrayal of a world in which the presence of magic resulted in destruction leading to a very different way of life. The weaving of Celtic mythology with the history of the Knights Templar into the plot was also well done, although the story did seem to be moving fairly slowly at times. While the main characters were well drawn, they weren’t terribly easy to relate to since both were on one side of an extreme, but they were intriguing personalities.
My Rating: 6.5/10