Age of Iron by Angus Watson
Just finished reading Age of Iron by Angus Watson – which I loved. I just really liked this – it’s very entertaining and it kept me glued to the page. Literally, I’ve read this in 2 days or maybe even less because I didn’t want to put it down! Anyway, I get ahead of myself.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Age of Iron other than three unusual characters who come together out of need. Dug, Spring and Lowa – the most unlikely set of companions that you could imagine!
At the start of the story Dug, a warrior for hire, has been roped into help defend the town and hillfort of Barton against King Zadar’s army. Having already completely annihilatied the town of Boddingham Zadar’s army are going to swing by Barton on the way back to Maidum Castle. At this point, there is still a debate about whether a battle will actually take place or not or whether this will be simply a display of strength and chariots. After all, Barton pays its taxes and tributes! Well, we don’t sit on a knife edge for long before a simple whim that could have gone either way brings Zadar’s army charging across the field to slaughter Barton’s defences At the same time, Lowa is helping Zadar achieve victory – one of his favoured she is a warrior and expert with a longbow. Whilst, awaiting the outcome of the battle and ready to move onto the field and collect the spoils of war is a rag tag bunch of misfits led by a man called Ogre and accompanied by a young girl called Spring. As mentioned, the three come together in unusual circumstances involving a lucky knock to the head rendering Dug unconscious during the massacre, Lowa being betrayed by Zadar and escaping with her life and ideas of revenge and Spring attaching herself to Dug who finds himself unable to forsake her!
What really worked for me with this story were the pacing, which is just constant and almost immediate and boils down to a fairly narrow time frame overall. The author’s style of writing which seems to casually and effortlessly set the scene without the use of long wieldy descriptions, difficult names and families/relationships. And the characters. Not only did I really like the three main characters but I also equally disliked some of the baddies! I love it when I get some proper nasty characters who I can really genuinely dislike! That being said, there are no really simple black and white characters here. Dug is a great character but he’s far from perfect. He’s not above walking away from a situation if it puts him in danger. He’s definitely a bit dictated to by his ‘little man’ and, on top of this – let’s not forget he’s a mercenary for hire and was originally intending joining the ranks of Zadar’s army. Similarly, Lowa has a very brutal and bloodthirsty past which she has time to reflect on once she’s on the other side of the fence. Spring is a very mysterious character. She’s only young, I think about 10 years old maybe, and yet she seems to be one of those people who things seem to come together for. I really liked her. If pushed though, I’m not sure I could name a favourite – they all have their own individual roles to play in this story and they all have their moments to shine.
On top of this the story itself is entertaining. It’s a strange mix of bloody warfare, torture and truly horrible nastiness but it’s all wrapped up in a humourous style package that prevents it from becoming too grisly. Darkly humourous I guess. Although, if you are a bit squeamish I’m just going to chuck in here that this might not be for you. Just saying. For me, I like that this isn’t too grim and takes a slightly less serious stance on what could become a very dark tale indeed.
In terms of the fantasy element – this is only very lightly done and comes in the form of the magic used by the druids of the period. Of course, some of them are simply charlatans but there are others who are truly capable.
Now I’m not a historian but I don’t think I really need to be to know that certain elements of this are not maybe factually accurate – for example the manner of speech which is modern. Personally, I like the modern take on the historical story and find the use of this type of language much easier in terms of the flow of the story. Others might have a different opinion but it certainly wasn’t an issue for me.
If you like a good romping adventure, a tale of revenge, a tale of comradeship and you can stomach the more grisly side (which has been tempered by a slightly humourous take not to mention some very inventive cursing) add to this a sprinkling of magic, some good old arena style games and an old fashioned tale involving difficult situations and heroic solutions then this could be the very book you’ve been waiting for.
Frankly, I really enjoyed this and have no hesitation in recommending it.
I received a copy of this courtesy of the publishers through Netgalley for which I give my thanks. The above is my own opinion.