The War in the Dark by Nick Setchfield

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The War in the Dark by Nick Setchfield

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A gritty mix of James Bond with Supernatural elements, The War in the Dark expertly genre hops to create a gripping, thrilling and hugely readable adventure – one that blends the real with the fantastical in such brilliant style that I'm hopeful this is the first of a series.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: July 2018
Publisher: Titan Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1785657092

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Europe – 1963. The world is used to the constant tensions between the West and Russia, with the Cold War a seemingly never ending threat in the lives of everyday people. What they don't know however, is that the real cold war is fought on the borders of this world, far from prying eyes at the edges of the light. British Intelligence agent Christopher Winter is forced to flee London when an assassination attempt goes horribly wrong, and is forced into a tense, unwelcome alliance with the lethal Karina Lazarova. As the threats rise, Christopher finds himself caught in a quest for centuries old hidden knowledge – an occult secret that will give instant supremacy to whichever nation possesses it. Racing against the enemy, Christopher is taken from ruins in Bavaria through to the haunted Hungarian border, all in search of something unholy – born of the power of white fire and black glass. It's a world of treachery, blood and magic. A world at war in the dark.

Take James Bond. Not the campy, bewigged later Sean Connery Bond, or the jovial, jokey Roger Moore Bond, but the grim, determined Bond that we saw appear in Dr No, From Russia with Love, and the more recent Casino Royale. Take that tense cold war setting – a climate so primed to explode that the merest spark could light everything into flames in an instant. Tense enough? Well, why not throw some demons into the mix…

Author Nick Setchfield is a writer and feature editor for SFX magazine – Britain's best selling magazine of genre entertainment in film, TV and books. He's also a contributing writer to Total Film, and a movie reviewer for the BBC – so, in short, a man who knows his genres. That's why, in The War in the Dark he's able to blend those genres so incredibly well – the lovechild of John le Carré and Stephen King is not necessarily something I want to picture – but it's exactly what Setchfield appears to be, with his carefully studied dedication to both the spy and supernatural genres blending expertly with a fantastically paced plot and some truly superb bits of writing.

I can't describe quite how well Setchfield's moments of the supernatural blend with the cold war setting – it's an extremely clever choice, and allows Setchfield to easily turn up the tension, with a base of deceit, espionage and potential destruction already established underneath his characters. Those characters are well drawn – with Christopher Winter an excellent combination of suave spy and flawed human, and Karina Larzarova a strong, powerful force – no mere window dressing as often happens in spy novels, but a plausible, readable character who both the reader and Christopher Winter would be stupid to underestimate. One thing often overlooked in spy novels can be settings – with the characters jetting from one vaguely non-descript setting to another. Here Setchfield is careful to craft his settings distinctly – and in particular his Berlin really stood out to me as almost a character in its own right – damaged, wounded and trying to recover.

A mark of a good book is when eagerly turn the page to the conclusion but, about ten pages before, feel a slight wave of sadness, knowing that I'll be leaving the characters and the world behind in a few short moments. That happened with The War in the Dark, and given just how good it is I'm extremely hopeful that there'll be more to follow – Nick Setchfield is a very talented man and I'm keen to revisit Christopher, Karina and the dark demons that surround them, as soon as I can…

Many thanks to the publishers for the copy, and for further reading I recommend Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? by Paul Cornell for another read that blends the supernatural with the mundane to compelling, gripping and hugely readable effect.

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