(2015) Edward Cox, Gollancz, £9.99 / Can$15.99 / US$12.99, pbk, 465pp, ISBN 978-1-473-20034-0
Divided, hunted and short on resources, the Relic Guild are in real trouble. Their old enemy, the Genii, have infiltrated Labrys Town. The Relic Guild must flee…
Lucky Edward Cox, for in the acknowledgements at the end of The Cathedral of Known Things, among those he thanks is Conrad Williams who was his external examiner when Cox put forward The Relic Guild for his Masters degree. Williams is one of my favourite writers and I often refer to him as “the poet of horror” for his use of language and imagery. Dare I say that Cox’s prose is more in your face than Williams, but no less enjoyable, and obviously, fast-paced. high fantasy isn’t what you would expect when you open a Conrad Williams novel. As for The Cathedral of Known Things, this is a sequel to The Relic Guild, and is the middle book of Edward Cox’s 'The Relic Guild' trilogy. Coming in at 465 pages it is a meaty tome, but the reluctant reader in me didn’t have to worry too much as the story itself is told over 22 fast-moving chapters, excluding the opening which isn’t a prologue at all, but “An Interim” as Cox calls it. Like the first book, interspersed between the chapters is another plot thread. This is set 40 years in the past, involving an earlier incarnation of the Relic Guild, with these non-chapters bearing titles such as “Spider Webs”, “The Way of the Blind Maze” and “The Reason of Traitors”.
I have often thought that this trilogy could have been brought out in one door-stopper of a book with over 1,000 pages. Perhaps it will be one day, for this second book starts straight after the events at the end of the first of the series, and with the present and past splitting the narrative we see how the events of the past have impacted on the here and now, as the Relic Guilds from the past and present are both on show; both teams are playing for high stakes and are enjoying a fair degree of misfortune and jeopardy. For the uninitiated the Relic Guild are a group of….well, heroes possessing various degrees of supernatural abilities and are referred to as “magickers” who work to protect Labrys Town and often go unrecognized for their efforts and their sacrifices. No spoilers here, but you really shouldn’t be reading this book without having read the first one. If you are, it is almost like being dropped into the middle of a battle zone with a whole load of action and carnage going on all around you. Suffice to say that this is more than a battle, it’s a war between the forces of Lord Spiral and those of the Timewatcher with the humans in Labrys Town caught in the middle and becoming increasingly isolated in the centre of the Great Labyrinth as they are separated from the Houses of the, elf-like, Aelfiran. The Guild’s headquarters – a living building – has been overrun by the Genii who serve Lord Spiral. In this book, the members of the Guild must try and protect the one House that still supports them and lets much-needed food and other items into Labrys Town while at the same time trying to find a way to defeat the Genii, but they are fast running out of friends, and options.
In this book secrets have to be uncovered and legendary places such as the Library of Glass and Mirrors have to be found if Lord Spiral is to be defeated in this fast-paced story that contains a cauldron full of multiple plot strands, amazing world-building detail, action and adventure, and revelations galore, along with a fair dose of character development as the back stories of some of the Relic Guild members are fleshed out. Of course, there is a cliff-hanger ending, and a shocking one at that, which sets things up nicely for the final part of the trilogy: The Watcher of Dead Time. This book is recommended for those who have read The Relic Guild, and if you haven’t then go not pass GO until you have.
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