The Scar-Crow Men (The Swords Of Albion book 2) by Mark Chadbourn (book review)

May 29, 2015 | By | Reply More

Since Sir Francis Walsingham’s death, the fate of England’s elite spies has been far from secure. When rumours of Fay plots reach them, Will Swyfte and his fellow spies, John Carpenter and Robert Launceston, finally decide to take matters into their own hands. The murder of Kit Marlowe sends Swyfte on a desperate mission to find the truth but, in his search for justice, he uncovers layer upon layer of deceit and treachery stretching into the highest reaches of England’s nobility. To protect the Queen and their country, Swyfte, Carpenter and Launceston will turn upon those they ought to trust, for in these dark days not everybody is what they appear to be. The Fay have been silent for too long and now their careful plans are coming to fruition. Soon they will rule England, not from the shadows, but from the throne itself, unless Swyfte and his allies can find the fabled Corpus-Scythe, the one thing that will stop the terrifying Scar-Crow Men.

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‘The Scar-Crow Men’ is the second book in the ‘Swords Of Albion’ series by Mark Chadbourn. I thought the first book (also called ‘Swords Of Albion’) got the series off to a fairly slow start but, in book two, we’ve really picked up the pace. So many things happen that Chadbourn could easily have filled two books, but by packing it all into one decently sized book we’re treated to a really exciting read.

That’s not to say that this is unrelenting action that leaves you no time to breathe. On the contrary, there are plenty of softer moments to balance the fast pace of the chases and fight scenes. I particularly liked seeing the friendship between Launceston and Carpenter develop more in this book. Carpenter wants to be there to help his friend, to prevent his sociopathic tendencies from winning and show him how to be a good man, not just a good and merciless killer. Yet, with his growing love for a woman and the hope of settling down, he realises that he can’t always be there to take responsibility for Launceston and clean up after him. Launceston’s eventual repayment of his friend’s loyalty was wonderful to read and it’s great to see such attention paid to a non-romantic relationship as this seems to be a pretty rare thing.

That’s just a small part of the story, though, so don’t worry that you’ll be disappointed if you’re more interested in the scheming of politicians or the deliciously evil machinations of the Fay. There is plenty of both in ‘The Scar-Crow Men’ and the twists and turns as Fay and human plots intertwine is nicely done by Chadbourn.

In fact, I’ve really got very little to complain about with this book. The historical setting is great, with a nice balance between reality and fantasy. The characters really shine through and the plot just kept me turning page after page. I may not have been that impressed with ‘Swords Of Albion’ (the first book, remember, not the series as a whole) but ‘The Scar-Crow Men’ has got me totally hooked and is a welcome return to the Mark Chadbourn whose writing I fell in love with in the ‘Kingdom Of The Serpent’ trilogy. It certainly won’t be long before I pick up the last book in this trilogy.

Vinca Russell

May 2015

(pub: Bantam Press/Transworld. 490 page enlarged paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK),

 $22.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-593-06251-7)

check out websites: www.transworld-publishers.co.uk and www.markchadbourn.com

Category: Books, Fantasy

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