May 25, 2020

Book Review: The Silver Skull

The Silver Skull by Mark Chadbourn is the first in the Swords of Albion series. It’s a spy thriller based in an alternative Elizabethan era. There are historical figures, such as the Queen, mixed in with the fictional characters. The combination is well done, and it adds a surrealistic level to the tale.

At the heart of the action is our hero, Will Swyfte. Will is unusual as spies go, because everyone knows who and what he is.  By design. His successful foray against Phillip of Spain made him a national hero, and his carefully crafted public personna helps keep the people of England feeling safe and secure. In reality, he is a key player in Walsingham’s (another historical figure) spy network.

There is a marvelous supporting cast in this novel.  Dr. Dee (Walsingham’s Q) provides tools and information to the team.  The mysterious Unseelie Court is an appropriately dark Enemy. Elizabeth I is formidable against said Enemy.  Grace, sister to Will’s beloved and disappeared Jenny, is a perfect damsel in distress. The Silver Skull itself is a nasty business that controls who wears it but is controlled by another.

As is appropriate, many things are resolved by story end, but there are open issues to be addressed in the future installments of The Swords of Albion. Chadbourn’s writing draws the reader through his complex tale with relative ease. The incorporation of historical stuff adds an element of possibility, and the inclusion of sorcery and mystical characters keeps it fantasy. It’s big fun to read. I am already ready to read what Will Swyfte and Walsingham’s crew will get up to next.

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