Friday, June 26, 2015


This is the second book in a trilogy – if you haven’t read the first, there are going to be spoilers as I set the scene for and review the second.  If that’s a problem go read:

The Pendragon Protocol first – (I recommend it, I did recommend it here:

So – as we begin, Jory has left the Knights of the Round Table and is now Robin Hood – and it’s 2015.  This is a history of now, but not our now, but not an aenemic alternative history sketched in with familiar tropes either, nor is this Chivralpunk (if such a beast existed, this would transcend it.)  This is – absolutely – a historical novel, with a wide, enticing, entwining perspective.

Ahead lies history.  The Great Schism, the Battle of Trafalgar, the Seige of Jerusalem – the new Civil War.  The Two Pretenders (Or are they).  The Return of the Pendragon (Or is he).  And there is much death, some unexpected and heart-rending.

Okay, I may have lost the people who infuriatingly still haven’t read the first book.

What do you call a man who thinks he’s Sir Lancelot?   A nutter, right?  What do call an entire society who think they're the Knights of the Round Table?  And if they have the history and social standing and political clout, and martial prowess to back it up?  Well, you may say they’re psychosomatically boosted by socially encoded memecomplexes – and many an expert would agree with you – but if the experts are the new Merlin, and the former Lady of the Lake, can you be certain that’s the whole story?

As open conflict, guarded truce around a miracle, and then civil war, spread across the fields of Britain between the Circle (the Knights) and the Green Chapel (Robin Hood, and his Merry Men) with many an obscurer set of devical memes waiting in the wings, and the other world powers standing back: the book unfolds a history at once marvellous and terrible.  Would I prefer it to this world? - ask me when I know how the trilogy ends, but the world in these books has HOPE, as well as DESPAIR. 

Let me be succinct : ‘this is the biz’.  If you read my review of the first book on Amazon, I said there, I was going for 4/5 because I reconned there was a 5 following – well this is a good 4.7

Why not a 5 – well it’s a trilogy and I want to know how it ends, and I’m making certain assumptions and plots and counter plots in my own head – as all readers who are also writers do – if somethings I’m only guessing at aren’t right I might slip back to a 4.5 – if they are I’ll be whooping at a 5.  Think of 4.7 as a schrodinger’s review until I can see clearly the horizon's fires.

Also, there’s always something – the strength of the Narrator’s voice is a genuine strength, but very occasionally he (not perhaps the author) missteps – and when the opinion of the narrator clashes with the opinion of the reader there’s a mild disconnect, as the reader recalls the narrator is also a character.  This may be unavoidable, it may even be intentional – but its timing didn’t always work for me.  The Narrator criticising the person carrying the device of Lancelot because of / via something the Lancelot in Tennyson’s Lady of Shallott says seemed unfair to me, both because only half of the line(s) were quoted, and because – as the Narrator – ought to know – Launcelot in Tennyson doesn’t have the least idea who she was, or why she died – how can he be expected to give her a eulogy.  What he says is more than the Narrator reports:

But Lancelot mused a little space
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott."

This isn’t (quite) Lancelot being shallow and smitten by beauty, its Lancelot musing on death which ‘timor mortis conturbat me’ takes even the beautiful, and then extending to the dead, the best he can offer, the commending of her soul to the grace of God’s mercy.  Clipping the latter made (me) feel the Narrator was being mean-spirited, and *if* that wasn’t intended then,I think its a slight ‘shading’ error.  But hey – I can find *one* thing to criticise in a whole novel.  Buy this, it’s great.

And the author is a remarkable scholar and a gentleman, and he'll probably tell me I'm wrong about Tennyson, or that there's a good reason Alan/Talisan is. 
(My friend Finn Clark, who's also reviewed this book here: 
puts a little info block into his reviews, I like that idea so much I've nicked it:)

The Locksley Exploit (2015)
Written by Philip Purser-Hallard
Publisher: Snowbooks Ltd
ISBN 9-781909-679429

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