Clash Of Iron (The Iron Age Trilogy book 2) by Angus Watson (book review).

It’s a weird thing seeing something you wrote quoted in the blurb for a book, even if not attributed to me and just ‘SFCrowsnest’ it’s still gives one a tiny thrill. The book in question is ‘Clash Of Iron’ the second in the ‘Age Of Iron trilogy’ by Angus Watson. The quote came from my review of ‘Age Of Iron’. I said I would absolutely read the next one and ‘Bring me my hammer, bring me my beer, bring it on!

Sadly, during the reading of ‘Clash Of Iron’, at no point did anyone bring me either a hammer or beer, which for this sort of Iron Age blood-and-thunder fantasy would have been ideal. No matter, though, because part two continued to build on the good work from part one, ‘Age Of Iron’. Dug, our well-meaning warrior hero, has to now defend Maidun Castle while ominous threat of Roman invasion looms from overseas.

However, this is where the novel cleverly makes for Queen Lowa as the other central protagonist to the book as she attempts to navigate both the politics and battlefields of ancient Britain. Meanwhile, in Gaul, Caesar is running amok and not one sign of Asterix to stop him.

Watson, whose journalistic work gave him good grounding for this setting, once again ably demonstrates his ability to create a living, breathing Iron Age world that Francis Pryor off ‘Time Team’ must fantasise about. It is muddy and bloody, brutal and, yet in many ways, more modern than we might care to think.

And yes, ‘brutal’ is the word to use. Especially to use with THAT ending. I’d felt sure I had the ‘Age Of Iron trilogy’ all mapped-out in my head, but then Watson drops a bombshell at the novel’s conclusion that sent me scurrying for part three. This continues to be good stuff. The books aren’t without humour neither, which I also enjoyed.

I very much liked ‘Clash Of Iron’, its gritty, violent enthusiasm for its subject and setting propel the narrative along without getting too grounded in the tropes displayed by most high fantasy fiction. Instead, the magic of the druids is an ephemeral thing, that leads you to question if you saw something just happen on the battlefield would you say, was it magic or luck? With ‘Clash Of Iron’ it’s definitely magic.

It’s tempting these days to compare all violent Conan-a-like fantasy to that of Joe Abercrombie. Not without reason, too, as his novels have made a huge impact in the genre. However, I’ll go on record saying that I prefer Watson to Abercrombie. Bring on part three and if possible the hammer and the beer!

John Rivers

May 2018

(pub: Orbit. 533 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-356-5026-5)

check out websites: www.orbitbooks.net and www.guswatson.com

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