Guardians of Alexander: Goldbane 1
(Big Engine, £9.99, 266 pages, large format paperback, published
Historical fantasy is a tricky beast. First, how to choose a setting?
Of course it has to be a time and a place that interests the author,
Guardians Of Alexander, John Wilson has chosen a setting that
should be of wide interest--the Near and Middle East at the time of
Alexander, that is, around 300 BC. Alexander is in fact the origin of
the story here, having acquired a certain amulet that belongs to the
Pollenator, an alien presence lurking in the Himalaya Mountains.
it also has to interest the reader, a far more difficult task. Fortunately,
The tale follows events after the sudden death of Alexander. Two groups
emerge, one led by Theopolytes and one led by Ptolemy, these two men
being Alexander's most important generals. Theopolytes has acquired
the amulet and also a vast treasure looted from King Darius of Persia.
Unknown to him his actions are being manipulated by the Pollenator,
mostly through a series of prophecies and auguries. Ptolemy, meanwhile,
setting himself up as pharaoh in Egypt, also wants the treasure--and
when he hears of the amulet he wants that as well. There follows an
intriguing tussle between the two powers as their agents, augurers and,
in the end, armies converge on the hidden valley where the amulet is
hidden, awaiting the rebirth of Alexander.
Although the novel suffers from uneven pacing, the machinations of
the various groups are interesting enough to overcome this problem.
The latter part of the book is particularly well done, as the Pollenator
comes into focus, the reasons for earlier passages are explained, and
the climactic struggle in the hidden valley approaches. There could
perhaps have been a stronger hook at the beginning, and the author will
have to be forgiven for providing too many descriptions of torture and
brutality (this was after all a violent age). These problems are however
balanced by the exciting tussle of the two generals in the second half
of the book, where every clue laid upon the land has to be retrieved,
as if by human bloodhounds--terrific stuff. Readers who get sucked in
will without doubt find themselves wondering what happens in the next
two books, which are set in later epochs of history.
(Alas, as we all now know, the second and third titles of this trilogy
will not be published by Big Engine. I can only hope that some other
small press takes the books up.)
Review by Stephen Palmer.
Note: all three volumes of Goldbane,
plus a number of other titles, are now available through Argoed
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