Friday, 19 September 2014

Review: 'Age of Iron' by Angus Watson

Age of IronI am absolutely thrilled to be today's stop on the blog tour for Angus Watson's Age of Iron, which was released on the 2nd of September. There is always a danger when books are compared to contemporary tv shows (Game of Thrones in this case) that they are an inevitable let down because they're not as rich or as visual as the show is. Thankfully that wasn't the case with Age of Iron and I really enjoyed it. Many thanks to Orbit for sending me a copy of the book for this review.
Bloodthirsty druids and battle-hardened Iron Age warriors collide in the biggest epic fantasy debut release of 2014.
LEGENDS AREN'T BORN. THEY'RE FORGED.
Dug Sealskinner is a down-on-his-luck mercenary travelling south to join up with King Zadar's army. But he keeps rescuing the wrong people. 
First, Spring, a child he finds scavenging on the battlefield, and then Lowa, one of Zadar's most fearsome warriors, who's vowed revenge on the king for her sister's execution. 
Now Dug's on the wrong side of that thousands-strong army he hoped to join ­- and worse, Zadar has bloodthirsty druid magic on his side. All Dug has is his war hammer, one rescued child and one unpredictable, highly-trained warrior with a lust for revenge that's going to get them all killed . . .
It's a glorious day to die
I am currently studying to become a Medievalist and I can't count the amount of times that people have thought that the inhabitants of Britain still lived in caves during the Iron Age. Instead of continuing this ignorance, Watson's story is ultimately human and neglects many of the stereotypes that unfortunately cloud many fantasy/historical fiction novels, especially regarding women when in fact women enjoyed a lot of rights before Christianity came to Europe. My favourite character in Age of Iron was therefore probably Lowa. She is strong, emotional, full of action, sexual and her position within the novel is never questioned. Watson writes her as a key character who drives the plot. This might sound normal, but many novels and films actually suffer from strong female characters who are only there as guides. They are the ones who are clearly capable of great deeds and yet they have to stand aside for a male character to take up the spotlight they were more than capable of filling. Although Dug is arguably the main character in this book, Lowa has her own path and follows that. The same counts for most of the other characters, all of which had their own story lines which seemed to come together quite beautifully in the end.

Watson's writing is evocative and this is really what brings to life a landscape that is unfamiliar to many readers. Everyone has probably seen a Marie Antoinette movie or knows what Henry VIII was like, but what exactly would a castle from the Iron Age look like? Since there was hardly anything to base his story on, in the sense of historical evidence, Watson was given licence to invent freely and he does exactly that. His world-building is vivid and imaginative, without seeming ridiculous. He creates a scene landscape feels both familiar and yet different enough to tickle the reader's curiosity. He also deals very adequately with the tradition of Druidism, which is, too often, ridiculed. Even among Druids there are wise ones and ridiculous ones and Watson offers us everything. Although I am not quite convinced at the choice of names for the characters, I can't really suggest any ones which would have maybe been more accurate.

Clocking in at 560 pages, Age of Iron is a whopper. However, the pages flow by and the story sweeps you along. Although I needed the first chapter or two to settle into Watson's style and the story but then I was off and didn't really stop until I reached the end. The novel takes a lot of unexpected turns and the switching of narrators between chapters means the reader gets to see the story from a lot of different angle. Naturally back in the day they didn't have any way of staying up-to-date with their companions so the switching really helps to make sure the reader stays attached to all the different characters and it also does a lot to up the suspense.

I give this novel...

4 Universes!!!

I absolutely loved Age of Iron. I raced through the novel and didn't want to put it down. Each of the characters had something endearing which means that there is not a chapter that feels like a waste. I would recommend this to history fans and readers who are looking for a read with strong female characters.

Check out the rest of the blog tour on the poster further up! Age of Iron by Angus Watson (Orbit) is now available as a paperback and eBook (at AmazonBarnes & Nobles and many other places).

1 comment:

  1. This sounds really good! I have seen the series around but I've never added it to my TBR list until today! :) It's always so nice when an author actually does his research and gets facts straight. Thanks for sharing!

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

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