(2016) Edward Cox, Gollancz, £16.99 / Can$26.99 / US$23.99, trdpbk, 359pp, ISBN 978-1-473-20036-4
This is the third book of Edward Cox's Relic Guild series and if you have not read the first two, you really need to do that before looking at this one.
The Relic Guild trilogy is the story of the agents of The Relic Guild as they seek to oppose their enemies, the Genii. The Guild is trying to prevent them from achieving what they started in the previous war, the destruction of humanity and life as they know it.
The story is told in two different time lines, the narrative switching between them to unfold the tale. This final part is very much the climax and finale of the tale where the two time lines come together.
This book sees the characters exploring new places allowing us the readers to get a wider perspective far beyond the starting point of Labrys Town. The setting is fantasy, technology is used, but magic is generally behind unknown mechanisms.
Most of the human population does not have magic; it is the Relic Guild that is an exception to this. The main characters have access to magic in some way, but they are primarily small personal based 'gifts' with relatively restrictive use.
Magic types, such as empathy, illusion and precognition, would be seen as passive in other fantasy world, here take on a more active role. The empath can not only feel what someone is feeling, but can use this to manipulate them, even to the point of taking their own life. There is always a price to pay for the use of magic.
How does an empath, who cannot forget the emotions of others they have shared, feel at the point of the otherís suicide, that they know they have caused?
How does a young girl feel when she is forced to allow her body to go through painful changes into a creature that she cannot control, when all of her 'mentors' are telling her to accept the changes, while they themselves are clearly scared of the outcome?
While none of the main character display the outward trappings of religion, the issue of faith becomes central to the plot. The Guild agents are put in a position where they must trust that they are doing the right thing and, even more fundamentally, they must believe that the cause they fight for is worth dying and sacrificing everything for, despite the fact that the Timewatcher, in whose name they fight, has abandoned that cause and they who fight for it.
The plot has echoes of the Old Testament, Luciferís fall from grace and the Spiralís betrayal of the Timewatcher both stem from jealousy of the deityís love for humanity. The absence of that deity following the fall perhaps reminiscent of (among others) Philip Pullmanís take on the 'Authority' of the 'His Dark Materials' series.
The characters are detailed, with the changing character perspectives giving the reader a real insight and empathy for their thoughts and feelings.
The first two volumes have really set the scene, we are familiar with the world concepts, the magic, the main characters and little space is given for descriptions at this late stage. Instead the focus is really on the action and the resolving of the issues that preceded.
I'm not going to spoil the story for you by giving away plot points, but it is fair to say it is the same action packed, fast paced adventure that you have come to expect from parts one and two. We finally meet some of the characters who have been referred to, but never seen and all sorts of secrets are revealed, some which the reader will have already guessed, but there are still some twists and turns to this tale.
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