Reign of Iron (The Iron Age Trilogy) by Angus Watson

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Reign of Iron (The Iron Age Trilogy) by Angus Watson

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The final instalment of the excellent Iron Age fantasy trilogy: exciting, mischievously swearish, bloody and over way too soon. (PS Dug's back!)
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 544 Date: September 2015
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0356502601

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Spoilers ahead for Books 1 and 2. Lowa and Spring both mourn the deaths of Dug in their own ways, each having reminders of the warrior they loved: Lowa carries around his baby while Spring carries around… well… Dug. They don't have time to brood though. The Romans may be taking their time but they haven't given up on the invasion idea. Meanwhile Ragnall, still in Rome with Caesar, is being given a good reason to join them. And so it begins as both sides gather troops and galvanise assistance ready for the mater of all battles.

British journalist and author Angus Watson brought us to the edge of a precipice of sorrow at the end of the second book of this, his Iron Age historical fiction/fantasy mash up. I'm sure I wasn't the only one feeling stomach punched and speechless as we saw Spring accidentally run Dug through with an arrow in a place where no one's going to get better. This was Dug gone. Yes, Dug, the lynch pin of the story that far, the gruff, sarcastically humoured bloke who, if not Iron Age would be a Yorkshireman. However, Angus now consoles us in the best way possible – Dug's back!

Dug may not be back in body but ghost Dug definitely returns, peppering the story with wisdom, light relief and a salve for poor Spring's conscience. Ok, he's not around as much as he used to be; giving the rest of the cast more opportunity to shine and shine they do.

That war we've been waiting two books for is getting closer and both Spring and Queen Lowa are using various methods to increase their army. Lowa's baby is a distraction for whom she has mixed feelings. (By the way, I won't spoil the baby's name for you, but three guesses…!)

As for the blokes, Ragnall the ex-druid/current nouveau Roman, is proving how easily led he is. Indeed, a few honeyed words in his ear go a long way.

Meanwhile, remember Felix the mega-sadistic Roman magic guy? Angus gives us another treat: we start the book with flashback to his childhood and the realisation that he was never the kind, considerate sort. Back in the present, the reason why he's been collecting slaves and prisoners starts to make sense as he debuts his maximen (yep, very big) and celermen. The latter have more to do with the Latin word for speed than salads - yep, very fast!

Although Angus has a lot of fun with history, the factual characters are there to mingle with our heroes. This time Caesar takes centre stage and emphasises his self-aggrandising godliness by continually speaking of himself in the third person.

As we've come to expect from Mr Watson there are also giggles mixed in with the evisceration and heart-stopping thrills. Take the reunion of Ragnall and Spring for instance and a very smirk-worthy sight-seeing tour of Rome.

Be warned if you don't like get out of jail free cards being used in fantasy as there's at least one very pronounced example. I personally don't mind as it's within the context. If you feel that would still irk you, try it anyway; the quality of the rest of the novel helps us forgive much. Oh and while encouraging you to read stuff, do read the dedications at the end which include the most touching reasoning for atheism I've ever encountered. (I say that as a vicar's wife so I've encountered quite a few!)

Talking of the end, at the very last we're given a glancing tease. It's a lovely way to end but could also be construed as an open door for a future return. Fingers crossed, eh?!

(Thank you to the great people at Orbit for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading:If you enjoy epic fantasy, then we also suggest that you try Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell.

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