Tag Archives: Mark Chadbourn

Friday Faceoff – The moon lives in the lining of your skin… Brainfluffbookblog

Standard

 

This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is SHAPESHIFTERS, so I’ve selected a book from a cracking series I very much enjoyed – World’s End – Book 1 of the Age of Misrule by Mark Chadbourn.

 

This edition was produced by Millennium in September 2000 – and it was this cover that prompted me to pick this one off the shelves. I love it. That glorious dragon suddenly appearing in the middle of the M4 in the path of a speeding car. The lighting… the rain reflecting the amazing image off the tarmac… a modern landscape in the background… the coruscating light flickering in the sky where the dragon has made his entrance… I think this is a masterful cover and it’s one of my all-time favourites.

 

Published in April 2010 by Pyr, this is another fabulous cover. If I hadn’t already given my heart to the dragon-themed cover above, this would certainly have been my favourite. The sheer threat and majesty of the magnificent being is so well depicted against the appalled figures silhouetted against that lurid green aura… I also love the title font, which works wonderfully well and holds its own with that amazing image.

 

On any other day, against normal covers, this effort would probably be my favourite. I love the image of the leaping dragon on this Polish edition, published by Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie in May 2006. The sheer vicious anger on that dragon face snarling out at us is sufficient to snag my attention – and I also love the beautiful slice of the wing and the way the title is nested within the image – but not quite enough to make this one my favourite…

 

Produced in June 2011, this French edition has gone for a feeling of menace, with the encroaching darkness held back by the small bubble of light over Stonehenge – what a clever choice for a symbol of ancient Britain – and our group of plucky protagonists silhouetted against that light, with an ominous red moon rising… Very cleverly done and far more understated than the previous efforts. Sadly, I’m not a subtle soul and prefer the clamour and excitement of dragons – because they’re – well, DRAGONS, baby!

 

This German edition, published by Feder & Schwert in July 2011, takes an entirely different tack and is another excellent example. The fossilised remains of the dragon, all picked out in glorious shades of gold and yellow, draws the eye. I love the slight spatter of blood – as well as giving extra visual drama, it also provides unanswered questions for the prospective reader… The designer has also taken time to consider how to include the textual matter within the artwork, which is fabulously executed. Another one that was so very nearly my favourite – which one do you prefer?

Advertisements

Review of World’s End – Book 1 of The Age of Misrule trilogy by Mark Chadbourn

Standard

All over the country, the ancient gods of Celtic myth are returning to the land from which they were banished millennia ago. Following in their footsteps are creatures of folklore: the Fabulous Beasts, shapeshifters and Night Walkers. Five flawed humans, named as Brothers and Sisters of Dragons but barely understanding what that entails, are drawn together on a desperate quest: to find four magickal talismans needed to fight the powers of old. As time draws short and the modern world falls into twilight, humanity looks set to be swept away in the terrible dawning of a new Dark Age.

This gripping mytho-fantasy isn’t set in some mythological land – this is Britain complete with motorways and actual cities, towns andworldsend villages with recognisable landmarks used as the backdrop to this quest. And don’t let the slightly high-flown language and capitals on the back cover blurb fool you into thinking that this is some polite version of a knightly tale brought into a contemporary setting. Chadbourn produces a couple of set pieces that wouldn’t be out of place in a horror book with his ability to depict chilling evil in all its bloody violence. However, this isn’t some gratuitous gorefest. As we follow the chosen five protagonists, all with troubled pasts, we get to know them and Tom, their reluctant, cranky guide. In fact, cranky sums up the relationship between these five different personalities as they careen across the British countryside in a desperate search for these ancient talismans, not even fully convinced that what they’re doing makes sense. It is in sharp and refreshing contrast to all those epic tales where everyone was courageously jolly.

There is more than a nod to the past in this tale, though. Even the name of the main protagonist – Jack Churchill – reprises echoes of another time in Britain’s history when her people were fighting for their existence. And that is the other main character in this story – the British landscape. I didn’t have to read that Chadbourn had spent six months tracing the best route for his characters to take from the south coast, right up into Scotland – it sings out of the pages in a hundred details that help depict the story in three-dimensional clarity.

Britain is drenched in history – for millennia our ancestors have roamed, settled, farmed and worshipped here. Placenames, pre-Roman roads, forts and settlements dot the completely manmade landscape. And in Chadbourn, we have an author whose detailed knowledge of the past has used this amazing backdrop to wonderful effect. The only criticism I could find was from an American who commented that he would have preferred some of the action to have been set in another country – which would have had the effect of shifting The Grapes of Wrath to Hawaii.

What Chadbourn doesn’t do with his vivid scene setting and in-depth mining of the Celtic myths, is hold up the action. This plot takes a bit of time to get going, as we learn about Ruth and Jack and what is driving them, but once we have the electrifying scene on the M4 depicted on the front cover, the pace goes on gathering momentum as the stakes are steadily raised.

As you might have guessed by now, I really enjoyed this one. It was wonderful to be able to so clearly imagine the different backdrops to the action with the braiding of Celtic mystery through the modern landscape, shot through with dread and fear. I’ll have to now track down the next two in the trilogy…
10/10