Having read the Vampire Empire stories by Clay and Susan Griffith and immensely enjoyed them, this new series, Crown and Key was something I was eagerly waiting to get started on. Set in a steampunk-ish early Victorian London and featuring some mind-bending magic mixed with alchemy taking on fearsome monsters, the first instalment in this series kicks some serious ass and then some. The story plays out non-stop - like a full-throated nitro-fuelled jet ride straight into an action-junkie’s nightmare even as we fall in love with the new lead pair of characters the author-duo paint up effortlessly. For those pining for Adele and Gareth from their earlier books, now you got the dashing Simon and beautiful Kate to cheer for!
The realm’s last defence are an unlikely pair of magicians – a roguish womanizer who’s actually the last of the “scribes” left in England matched up against a self-possessed earnest alchemist. Samuel Archer apprentices to the enigmatic and reluctant Nick – and is actually the very few “scribes” left alive. Those who can effectively use runes and access the strength and power of ‘aether’ for magical deeds. Nick, as he loves saying is a jack of all trades and master of none – is a bit of a mystery and prefers his glass of whiskey to running after damsels in distress or otherwise.
However the dark grey streets of London are being haunted by a darkness – an otherworldly force slowly spreading its tentacles – and riding this darkness is werewolf Greta: a monstrously powerful werewolf who’s had some history with these two and now is hell bent on consolidating all the werewolves into some kind of a devil’s army. A werewolf attack in the streets of London accidently puts the duo in contact with another werewolf hunter, Malcolm Macfarlane. And the party-circles of London which Simon frequents to keep his façade up – introduces him to the charming and beautiful Kate Anstruther, a self-possessed and brilliant alchemist. When her sister gets abducted by the same werewolf gang that Simon and Co were chasing after – the conspiracy takes a darker and more personal turn. After this, the story takes wings and no prisoners. Hurtling along at a breakneck pace, the rest of the story follows Simon and his band take on the might of Greta and her army – some secrets spilling on the sides, a lot more questions raised about this conspiracy, a bit of backstory and world building in process and hell of a lot of swashbuckling adventure and action sequences that should excite any Michael Bay- Guy Ritchie disciples to sit up and take note. Won’t be surprised if this one gets commissioned to be on the big screen soon!
So what the Griffith couple do well is build up endearing characters whom we grow to love and care for. With Simon Archer – going through an existential crisis and coming to terms with his powers and destiny, they give us an excellent lead character who slips between the roles of an effective charmer and the reluctant hero effortlessly. Kate Anstruther, the other lead is a strong female character – completely in control of her life, self-made and possessed of such ferocious self-confidence! There is a sweet little romantic sub-plot going on here hidden behind all that throwaway violence that permeates the entire book. The others like Malcolm, the gruff straight-talking hunter or the resourceful ass-kicking Penny who runs a “weapons” shop or the silent and loyal Hogwarth are all worthy additions to the plot and provide for most of the colour in the story.
That said, this isn’t a book that pretends to have a depth of world building and characterization. It makes no bones about what it is. Pure unadulterated fun. That’s what you get. Like a summer blockbuster with the bombs flying and CGI effects galore. This one’s like that. Taking no breather, the book reads like a runaway action movie and features some mind-blowing action set pieces. It’s the first book and so sets in place a lot of the staples that will drive the plot forwards in the coming books ( and hey they are coming fast and furious right on the heels of this one!)
Bill it as either an urban paranormal mystery or a gas-lamp fantasy, The Shadow Revolution definitely delivers the goods. What it promises is oodles of light-hearted fun and non-stop action. Full of monsters straight from your worst nightmares pitted against a bunch of dashing heroes and beautiful heroines who can kick butts. Add some elements of steampunk and a wild dash of adventure, this forms the perfect summer read for 2015. This one releases on June 2nd - Go grab your copy!