Fiction Reviews

The Secret War

(2006) M. E. W. Curran, Tor UK, 7.99, pbk, 407pp, ISBN 978-0-230-71118-1.

This fantasy adventure published in 2006 in N. America but its first appearance in the UK was in 2009.

Set at the very end of the battle of Waterloo the adventure takes us from the war torn, muddy and bloody fields to the calm farmland of home in England. The author paints a vivid picture of our heroes' surroundings, upbringing and a way of life our modern days have almost forgotten.

The challenge set of these two men is both mysterious and harrowing, from the very beginning their bond and friendship is uneasily trusted. The author allows us this uncertainty initially but develops the bond needed as the backbone of the strength these two require for their quest.

Their mysterious package takes them on an quest to London and over the seas to Rome. I particularly enjoyed the sea-faring section of the book: here, with the patience of time it takes to travel by sea, many new skills and new fighting techniques are learned to equip them for when they face their new and unique enemies.

The story disappointingly takes our characters William and Kieron from centre stage to tag-along followers on a journey bigger than them and right back into the centre stage again. It's a fascinating tale of fighting, secrets, traitors, mysterious enemies and mysterious allies.

There are sections of this novel that I must describe as having a role-playing quality. Here, as the reader, I want to know more. For example, the characters ask for their questions to be answered, but the answers are put off or diverted, until dawn, until land, until they reach the next town or when they are well rested. My frustrations are lightened with the addition of yet again newer fighting techniques, introducing an element of comedy for our boys.

The fantasy characters do interfere in our 'world' with a feeling of clumsiness upon arrival, this is only because M.E.W. Curran has painted such an accurate description of this time in history. As we meet there interesting new characters they somehow counteract the reality, it almost feels like it could be two books in one. I however eagerly anticipate the next book Hoard of Mhorrer to discover more about our friends and people met in this first one.

Claire Gilligan

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