Wednesday, 15 December 2010

‘Pax Britannia: Blood Royal’ – Jonathan Green (Abaddon Books)

Christmas is a time for lots of things and, for me, one of those things is to go back and revisit a favourite author or two when the weather outside is frightful (and the fire is so delightful...) Jonathan Green sits firmly on that particular list with his ‘Pax Britannia’ series being just the right reading for this time of year. If you’re looking for something highbrow then you might just want to look somewhere else but if you’re looking for a highly entertaining read that’s a lot of fun then you’ve come to the right place! The hero is appropriately dashing and if the villains had moustaches then you can bet that they would be twirling them devilishly. The ‘Pax Britannia’ books are guaranteed to take you away from the tedium of everyday living and dump you right in the middle of a steampunk London where every shadow holds a knife and enemies of the Empire plot against the throne. You can tell that I highly recommend these books...
This brings me onto ‘Blood Royal’; a book that I’ve been saving up to read while things gently wind down towards the New Year. ‘Evolution Expects’ was clearly setting up events for future books and, while this lessened the impact of the book itself, this approach had me looking forward to seeing what happened next. I’m pleased to say that, with ‘Blood Royal’, Jonathan Green has turned in his best instalment yet.

Following the events of ‘Evolution Expects’, large chunks of London are barred to the public as they are now home to vicious insect/human hybrids that are barely contained behind makeshift barriers. That’s not going to stop Ulysses Quicksilver though! When a kidnapping goes horribly wrong and a friend’s daughter is spirited away to the locust nest in St. Paul’s Cathedral only Quicksilver can save the girl and the day. This adventure soon proves to be only a small part of something much larger though and Quicksilver once again finds himself embroiled in a plot that could have grave consequences for the Empire... What was Dr. Gallowglass working on before his untimely death and why does the trail lead to a remote region of Russia? And what is the connection to a very familiar looking killer stalking the streets of Whitechapel with a knife...?

I had my reasons for putting ‘Blood Royal’ to one side until now. I wanted to have fun with my Christmas reading this year and I knew that’s what I’d be getting with this book; it made sense to wait until now for the read. Having said all that though, I still found myself wondering I hadn’t picked this book up a lot earlier. It’s one hell of an entertaining ride and I’m not going to wait as long before picking the next book up!

Usually, when an author throws everything (he can get his hands on) at the plot it will be at the overall expense of the story. Not everything will stick, for one thing, and that inevitably leads to a fragmented book that doesn’t flow anywhere near as well as it should.
Not so with Jonathan Green and ‘Blood Royal’. Throughout the course of the book, Green really does throw everything bar the kitchen sink at the plot. Are you looking for a tale with a long dead serial killer rebuilt in cyborg form? It’s here. Were you looking for a tale of biological warfare involving vampires and werewolves? ‘Blood Royal’ comes up trumps there as well. By this point you’re probably thinking that ‘Blood Royal’ cannot possibly contain Mongol warriors riding Pterodactyls, can it? It can...
The beauty here is that everything Green throws at the plot not only sticks but sticks in such a way as to work with the plot instead of merely being decorative. What you get as a result is a plot that moves at a frantic pace whilst making complete and utter sense. Each madcap spectacle flows seamlessly into the next and I was totally caught up in the rush of trying to get to the bottom of a very mysterious murder. It’s very obvious who the murderer is but, at the same time, it’s a lot of fun to see this particular character in a new setting. I think we’ll be seeing more of him in the future...

Green’s ‘scattershot’ approach to the story also has the welcome affect of giving his readers a much more in-depth view of the world of Magna Britannia and the elements that keep the Empire running. The plot may be a little light weight and pulpy but the detail in the background offers clear evidence that this is a world that has been carefully planned and thought out. It’s a firm setting for the plot to rest on and the story benefits from being able to do its own thing without having to justify some of its wilder excesses.

Just like watching your favourite ‘Indiana Jones’ film on Christmas afternoon (‘Temple of Doom’ if you’re asking...) ‘Blood Royal’ has it all going on and at such a speed that you are almost physically compelled to keep reading. Apart from a couple of the ‘journey’ passages that is. Sometimes things just don’t happen on a long trip but that still means things can get a little on the boring side; especially when the rest of the book is such a riot of action. Tying it all together though is that dashing hero of the British Empire Ulysses Quicksilver. As always, Quicksilver is just the right kind of character to drive a plot like this with his ability to take charge of the moment and get things done. He also has a nice line in repartee and dazzling swordplay; you can’t really ask for too much more from your leading man!

‘Blood Royal’ is another thoroughly entertaining read from Green that will set the standard for the rest of the books in this series. I’m hoping for more of the same from ‘Dark Side’ and will let you know how it goes...

Nine and a Half out of Ten


Anonymous said...

hello. I just wanted to know, being that ive heard of it before, is that novel the best place to start? plus ive heard from somebody that they read almost like a manga series put to words and chapters and that they're similer to stephen hunt's jacklian novels (which are kind of the same thing too).

Jonathan Green said...

Hi Graeme

Thanks for the great review!

If you liked Blood Royal, you'll be in for a treat with Dark Side. ;-)