Review: Age of Iron by Angus Watson
Published September 9th 2014 by Orbit
Review copy received from the publisher
We barely know anything about the Iron age in Britain – all the information we have we got from archaeological finds. This shows us what people wore and how their day to day life looked like, but we don’t know anything about their culture or what motivated them. We know even less about the Roman invasion, except for the diaries of Julius Caesar. Age of Iron tells a story of what could have been in this rather dark age, wrapped in a nice fantasy package.
Dug is an old warrior, and he hopes for a comfortable life in the army of Zadar, a growing power in Britain. Lowa is a fighter in Zadar’s army, until she is betrayed. Together with the mysterious little girl, Spring, these three get caught in wars bigger than their personal grudges.
The biggest strength of Age of Iron is that it’s just so easy to get into. There are no big info-dumps, no complex world building sequences or dozens of families to get used to (I am looking at you, Mr Martin). It drops you in the action, and shows you the ropes of the setting through the eyes of a handful of characters, without losing the momentum. Age of Iron is one of the most accessible fantasy books I’ve ever seen, and I can tell Mr Watson is a fan of Joe Abercrombie, has a similar approach to world-building.
I really liked the characters, especially the girl, Spring. I think she’s the most interesting one, maybe also because we rarely see through her eyes. In many ways she reminded me of Arya, from the Song of Ice and Fire series. She’s just as feisty and stubborn, and yet is still a kid. The other characters weren’t as fleshed out as I would have liked them to be – Dug, the warrior from the north, was a great guy but a little shallow. Lowa had had very little emotions, which is understandable for someone that has killed as much as she has, but she still felt empty.
One of the reasons that Age of Iron is so readable is that the characters speak in a very modern way. In a sense I think this is fine, we don’t know how people back then spoke anyway, so there is no reason to act like they speak like 19th century aristocracy. At times though, the speech became way too modern or even contradictory. Coins and money are a new invention, brought to Britain by the Romans. Yet, when Dug sees a rich looking woman, he thinks to himself that she looks like “old money”. How would he ever think this expression when they’ve only been using coins for a few months? EVERYONE is new money. I felt like some of these glitches were jokes meant for the modern reader, but for me they were jarring.
This book should come with a few warnings. First of all, they’re not very dainty concerning sex – there are plenty of rapings (though not on-page), whores, and even the main characters are all very casual about humping here or there. Although I quite liked that the heroine for once isn’t a cleanly virgin, but someone that just has sex when she feels like it, it might be a bit much for other people. The sex scenes aren’t explicit by the way, it’s just mentioned a lot. Secondly, there is quite some gore. At one point a man is forced to eat pieces of his wife. A strong stomach is recommended for this story.
The world of Age of Iron is pretty brutal, and it’s a very entertaining and engaging story.
First, Spring, a child he finds scavenging on the battlefield, and then Lowa, one of Zadar’s most fearsome warriors, who’s vowed revenge on the king for her sister’s execution.
Now Dug’s on the wrong side of that thousands-strong army he hoped to join - and worse, Zadar has bloodthirsty druid magic on his side. All Dug has is his war hammer, one rescued child and one unpredictable, highly-trained warrior with a lust for revenge that’s going to get them all killed…
It’s a glorious day to die.
- Review: Blood’s Pride by Evie Manieri (3.5 Stars)
- Review: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin (4 Stars)
- Review Rewind: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie (4 Stars)
- Review: Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding (4 Stars)
This review is part of the blog tour; click on the banner in the blurb to make it larger. Age of Iron by Angus Watson (Orbit) is now available as a paperback and eBook.