The Sword Of Albion (The Swords Of Albion book 1) by Mark Chadbourn (book review).

The year is 1588 and Queen Elizabeth I sits on the throne, ruling an empire that is under threat from all sides. As far as most people know, the greatest of these threats comes from the Spanish who are raising an armada to sail against England and invade her shores. Yet there is a far greater enemy than the Spaniards, an enemy that stalks through the shadows, that steals the souls of the innocent and turns men mad with just a whisper. Will Swyfte, one of Sir Francis Walsingham’s elite spies, knows all about this other enemy, the fey folk of the Unseelie Court. He and a small band of adventurers battle daily against them, trying to save not just England but the whole of humanity from their evil clutches. Yet, this time, with so many enemies approaching and a terrible weapon in play, can these few men even hope to come out victorious or will England and the human race both fall?


‘The Sword Of Albion’ is a book that would fit neatly into shelves of historical fiction or fantasy, bringing the Elizabethan age vividly to life while adding a dash of fairy magic to spice things up a little. It is the first book in Mark Chadbourn’s ‘Swords Of Albion’ series, which all feature the English spy Will Swyfte. He’s a fairly likeable character, a flawed hero who fights against the fey in the hope that he will discover what happened to his one true love, a young woman who disappeared some years ago. Swyfte does his duty to England, as demanded by his superiors, but we know that he will take any opportunity to learn the truth, even if it puts his mission at risk. I’d like to be able to say that we are drawn into his inner struggles but, truthfully, it’s hard to get too emotionally involved in this book. It’s a shame really because it means that some of the action and most of the tragic moments (with so many battles, it’s inevitable that there are deaths) really lose their impact when the reader isn’t wholly invested in the characters. It’s also hampered a little by there being a lot of characters that appear and disappear throughout, with Swyfte being the only constant. As a consequence, we just don’t see enough of the other characters’ personalities to really get sucked in and Swyfte isn’t strong enough to carry it alone.

The historical detail is really the strong point of this book for me and I fully intend to go off and read a real history book about this period. The Elizabethan era comes across wonderfully and you can almost smell the staleness of the taverns and see the rats scurrying across the street. I enjoyed the way the supernatural elements of the plot blended seamlessly with real events of the time, like the war with Spain and the raising of Sir Francis Drake’s English fleet to fight the Spanish armada. This blending also worked nicely with characters, mixing fictional characters and real ones to put together a very believable set-up. It might get a bit far-fetched at times, but it manages to do so in an enjoyable way so that it never gets tiring.

I enjoyed ‘Sword Of Albion’ and I’m perhaps being a bit harsh on it because I have loved previous Mark Chadbourn novels that I’ve read. I had high expectations to begin with and was excited before I started reading it. The setting is great, lots of detail and very easy to imagine, but I’d have liked just a little bit more depth to the characters to raise it from being a good book to an excellent book.

Vinca Russell

October 2014

(pub: Bantam Press/Transworld. 312 page enlarged paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-593-06247-0

pub: Bantam Press/Transworld. 605 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). $19.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-553-82021-8)

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