In my highschool years, I read “If on a winter’s night a traveller” by Italo Calvino and this one section has always stuck with me…
“In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven’t Read, which were frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you. But you know you must never allow yourself to be awed, that among them there extend for acres and acres the Books You Needn’t Read, the Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading, Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written. And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of the Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered. With a rapid maneuver you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered, the Books ditto When They Come Out In Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too. Eluding these assaults, you come up beneath the towers of the fortress, where other troops are holding out:
the Books You’ve Been Planning To Read For Ages,
the Books You’ve Been Hunting For Years Without Success,
the Books Dealing With Something You’re Working On At The Moment,
the Books You Want To Own So They’ll Be Handy Just In Case,
the Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer,
the Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves,
the Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified,
Now you have been able to reduce the countless embattled troops to an array that is, to be sure, very large but still calculable in a finite number; but this relative relief is then undermined by the ambush of the Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time To Reread and the Books You’ve Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It’s Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them.”
In the grand scheme of things, Mark Chadbourn’s “Dark Age” trilogy falls somewhere between “Books You’ve Been Planning To Read For Ages” (i.e. most of the books I own) and “Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First”. I probably should have picked up the “Age of Misrule” (an earlier trilogy set in the same fantasy “verse”) but the entire “Dark Age” series was available at $3/book at my favourite used bookstore so my mind was made up. I was not disappointed.
The Devil in Green is a sort of fantastical post-apocalyptic adventure story that centers around Mallory, an anti-hero and mercenary who sells his services to the much-reduced Catholic Church which has holed up in Salisbury Cathedral.
The basic premise is that mythological creatures have re-entered the world after a few millenia away and society as we know it has crumbled. What remains is a world that merges modern technology (Mallory enters driving a Porsche) with Celtic Mythology. It works! I am not a huge fan of fantasy epics set in modern times but Chadbourn does a very good job of making the story both convincing and compelling. In fact, this is what the author is best known for – research and detail.
I thought the main characters were interesting and well-rounded and the villans were suitably multifaceted. Mallory in particular is smart and edgy and the big punch line towards the end of the book is unexpected but goes a long way towards explaining his actions. The other characters (including Sophie Talent, his witchy love-interest) are not as deeply explored but this doesn’t detract from the flow of the story.
Bottom line: a well written book with plenty of intrigue, a few “horrific” elements, and a strong point of view driven by history and myth brought to life. Well worth the read.