Mark Chadbourn is yet another author I haven’t had the opportunity to read before, but when I first heard of The Sword of Albion I set my sights on it being my first Chadbourn book. The Sword of Albion is the start of a new historical fantasy series that centers on an English spy and his misadventures across the Europe. This was a may release from Transworld/Bantam and they bring us a book filled to the brim with riveting action and wonderful prose this promises to be a series to look out for.

Blurb:

1588: As the Spanish Armada prepares to sail, rumors abound of a doomsday device that, were it to fall into enemy hands, could destroy England and her bastard Queen Elizabeth once and for all.

Enter Will Swyfte.

He is one of Walshingham’s new breed of spy and his swashbuckling exploits made him famous throughout Europe. But how can a man so celebrated be an effective agent? In truth, Swyfte’s public image is a carefully nurtured façade to give the people of England a hero in their hour of need – and to deflect attention from his real role. For Will is at the forefront of a hidden war against a foe infinitely more devilish than Spain…

For millennia this unseen Enemy, the Unseelie Court, has preyed upon humankind, treating honest folk as playthings to be hunted, taken and tormented. But now England is fighting back. Armed with courage, their wits and an array of cunning gadgets created by sorcerer Dr. John Dee, Will and his colleagues must secure this mysterious weapon before it is too late.

Theirs is a deadly game played out in a shadowy world of plot and counter-plot, deception and desolation, where no one – and nothing – is quite what they seem. At stake is the very survival of queen and country….

Despite my attempts not to, it was impossible not to think sixteenth century James Bond when I read the blurb. Honestly, could it be any more similar? They even have their own time-appropriate Q in the “sorcerer” Dr. Dee. Once into the reading though, The Sword of Albion looses all of its resemblance with the other British spy apart from the bits that make both great: the excitement the thick intrigue and the awesomeness. Particularly appreciable is the punch Chadbourn packs into this book. It’s contains a sufficiently mysterious and evil enemy, uncertain loyalties, unpredictable twists and turns and on top of all that he manages to smuggle along a love story. That is an accomplishment. This is one well-rounded book, if you are not attracted by one facet of the story then another is sure to do so.

The scope of this story is something to adore. Very rarely does a single volume travel through so many places. Chadbourn takes us through London, Edinburgh, Cadiz, Seville, the French coast, the English Chanel, etc. You can see how dense the plot is. But even taking that into account, the plot remains easy to follow. Like any good spy story though, it also remains unpredictable with betrayals and unforeseen developments always just around the corner. Chadbourn definitely has the spy stuff down pat; he aptly captures the concerns associated with their lifestyles, the trauma they go through and just how it can get to them emotionally and mentally and, best of all, he writes some fine spy action: break-ins, fights, assassinations, etc. We also can’t forget the good Dr. Dee, who (and this is really the only part that remains similar to Bond) supplies the Queen’s spies with a neat and useful array of gadgets, period appropriate, of course.

The Sword of Albion, while telling its own story, is without a doubt setting up the base for the rest of this series. This is especially true of the last bit of the story since after the main story arc for the book is resolved, we are treated with a few semi-epiloguish chapters which contain events designed to lead us into the next volume with plenty of excitement and unresolved questions. This is groundwork that is well laid out it is sure to prove captivating as everything plays out.

I am finding myself enjoying historical fantasy more and more, with the likes of Jasper Kent and his Danilov Quartet and now Mark Chadbourn with his Swords of Albion. This is a highly recommended read for its quick action, dense plot and overall appeal. Shame is now what I feel at not having discovered Chadbourn before and I’m now thinking of remedying the situation and taking a shot at his previous work. Nevertheless, read through this book and keep a look out for the next installment in this series.

Summarizing Info:
My Rating: 4 out of 5
Reading Age: 15 and up

Links:
Mark Chadbourn's website: http://www.markchadbourn.net/

Buy The Sword of Albion:
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Bookdepository.co.uk