Posts Tagged medieval

Review: The Burnt Watcher

The Burnt Watcher Cover

This book was recommended to me by Nimue Brown, which kindled a lovely friendship with the author! I would say that any bias is unintended, but…

This book is absolutely in my Top 10 Reads of 2020. For a first-time, independently-published novel, it caught me up in its tale and I found myself trapped within its pages late into the night.

‘Five hundred years ago the old world burned and the Fear rose from the ashes and the Glass. Watchers knew the Fear and found the ways of fighting it, enabling the world to be built anew.’

This may be the calmest post-apocalyptic novel I’ve ever read. It starts long after the Big Catastrophic Event, and reminded me at first of Ellis Peters’ ‘Cadfael’ books: a spiritual man, injured in the course of his work and seeking peace and quiet, pulled into a mystery from a world he’d left behind.

Master Grey is a Watcher, trained to fight The Fear which destroyed the ancient cities and drove all survivors into the countryside. This is recognisably England, albeit with slightly changed names (watch out for the dangers of the M4 motorway!), with technology that is something between medieval and steampunk, born of practicality and without using any concrete whatsoever.

I love how Master Grey leads us through his world. He assumes that those hearing his tale already understand the foundations of his society, so doesn’t go out of his way to explain them – there’s little exposition here. He remembers events and people as they’re important to him, and so the reader is able to build the world he moves through it.

The Fear hasn’t been seen in many years, so the Watchers are now few in number. However, we soon learn that it has certainly not disappeared, but is working subtly in the background while humanity starts to forget. Yes, magic is present here, but in a very practical manner… and scoffed at by the ‘educated, civilized’ folk. Until they have need of it.

The author uses his own interpretation of folk magic such as ley lines and runes to create a very grounded spiritual tradition that quickly seems very natural. I’d be intrigued to see how the society of the book formed post-event, but at the same time it’s tremendous fun to figure it out myself.

There’s a few influences here, I’d guess, but all combine to make a fascinating world. From Cadfael we move to the Swiftian bureacracy of middle England, then on to ‘The Wicker Man’ (or even ‘Deliverance’), with shades of ‘Rivers of London’ and ‘Neverwhere’. I use these as hints, by the way – the book is absolutely its own creature – but if you like any of the above, you’ll likely enjoy this.

Before you know it the gentle pace has ramped up, and by the end is hurtling along as we read faster and faster to see how Master Grey will discover what’s going on, defeat the Fear, and how even more  damaged he might be as a result.

I understand that there is a sequel (or two) in the works, and they can’t come fast enough!

I love being recommended new books, and this is one Find that I’m happy to sing the praises of. Absolutely do seek it out.

The Burnt Watcher‘ is available for Kindle and in paperback via Amazon.

 

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Serbia – Day 1

(Originally published on my Patreon, two weeks ago. Please follow me there if you’d like to see my Summer adventures as they happen!)

Here I am, miles away from home… and as always, seeing both the similarities and differences between Here and There.

I’m in Serbia this week, as Himself is part of Team GB for Battle of the Nations, the huge international medieval fighting event. DON’T call them reenactors.

We’re staying at a lovely (self-described) traditional hotel outside Belgrade, driving to Smederevo Fortress every day for the event.

This means that we (briefly) saw Belgrade on the way out of the city. A sharp contrast between Old and New, I suspect it’s what London may have looked like in the 1950s. Lots of building work going on.

Out here in the countryside, it’s beautiful. We’re close to some very dense forest, with enormous birds of prey swooping above, and so many crows everywhere!

We noticed that from above, the landscape looks like the English countryside, with its patchwork of fields and towns. Up close, it kind of still does… until you notice certain fields have been ploughed by animal, not machine.

Many houses are being constructed, and again, there’s a contrast between Cold War-esque bloks (ie apartments) and lovely new homes, often with several stories and unique features. One house is bright yellow, another has Grecian pillars… make it what you want it to be!

Also today is a Bank Holiday for May 1st. Shops shut, celebrations happening, and flowers garlanded over house fronts and gates. I woke up to the scent of incense floating in the window. Serbia has absolutely not forgotten its history.

One notable downside – as in a lot of mainland Europe, driving is a survival sport 😂

I’m hoping to take more pictures over the next few days, as there’s a lot of beauty to see. For now, here’s a familiar image. But look at the top, at the cast names.

This is how it feels. Similar to home… until you look closer.

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