Review – Age of Iron by Angus Watson

Posted: July 18, 2014 in Fantasy
Tags: , , ,

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There’s a debate in fantasy about the category ‘grimdark’: Joe Abercrombie seems to embrace it (just check his twitter handle) whilst Mark Lawrence thinks it pointless. I’ll not argue with either of those titans of fiction. Angus Watson’s debut, however, fits the criteria for that category well as his novel is definitely grim and, at times, very dark. Set in the less than understood Iron Age of ancient Britain, Watson may not have created a new world but he has been brilliantly inventive with the sparse information historians have of that period to produce a superb fantasy story.

Following the self-reflexive and humble warrior Dug, we’re soon introduced to the way of the Iron Age from the everyday village full of crafts people to some very nasty and power drunk Druids and Kings. After finding himself on the wrong side of a battle (more accurately a slaughter) against the very King he was hoping to enlist with, Dug’s simple plan for an easy life becomes very complicated. He first meets Spring as she and her companions scavenge for treasure amongst the battle’s dead. Spring turns out to be an extremely strange ten-year old girl with some impressive talents. After deciding and failing to mercy kill her and then deciding to abandon her, Dug soon finds himself entangled in helping Lowa, an archer from the very army responsible for the earlier slaughter.

Lowa, once a heralded soldier in King Zadar’s army is now on the run after narrowly escaping an execution that claimed her sister, and hell-bent on revenge. Dug, enamoured by the young warrior, decides to help. Spring tags along being equally hilarious and helpful exactly when needed. After numerous scraps, treacherous encounters and betrayals, the gang find themselves fulfilling Lowa’s plan though not in the way any of them thought. From Dug’s opening ruminations, the story gathers pace and momentum becoming more complex and intense until the fantastic set piece conclusion.

Age of Iron is a brilliant tale of vengeance packed with action and a tumble of vibrant and canny characters. Watson’s novel is also highly informative, showing how ancient Britain and it’s people lived (who apparently held some fairly modern attitudes). There’s some great chapters on the notions of power, religion and mysticism and even a little digression on the pleasures of long distance running. Coming in at well over 500 pages, the novel is hefty but what it does is allow Watson to wonderfully describe and uncover both his setting and his collection of actors. The book never feels slow or ponderous but reads at a decent pace as it gathers steam for the big finale.

From the intriguing blend of historical fiction and fantasy elements to the engaging sense of humour that underpins his main characters and their interactions, Watson has created a brilliant and confident debut. At turns the book is equally funny, thrilling, horrifying and informative. Dug and Spring are a truly fantastic duo bringing light to the dark and grim setting of an ancient Britain in the throes of tribal warfare and the threat of an approaching Roman invasion. If you like your fantasy packed with blood thirsty Druids, hammer-wielding heroes, strong female leads, action, intrigue, betrayal, and a brilliantly conceived world then Age of Iron is for you.

Review copy
Published by Orbit

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Comments
  1. On my list to read now 🙂

  2. Christo says:

    Sounds awesome!

  3. lynnsbooks says:

    Great review. I really enjoyed this book too.
    Lynn 😀

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