Thursday, 21 October 2010
‘Children’s Crusade (The Afterblight Chronicles)’ – Scott Andrews (Abaddon)
This is where Abaddon come in with their mission to publish books that do just that. These books may not be deep but they are full of energy and things exploding in the best possible way; something that has kept me coming back ever since I read their first book (‘The Culled’). Whether it’s Paul Kane or Scott Andrews’ work, the post apocalyptic world of the ‘Afterblight Chronicles’ supplies a liberal dose of pyrotechnics and action and has become a series where I know that I’m guaranteed a fun read. Would that be the case with Andrews’ latest though? Not only did ‘Children’s Crusade’ keep its side of the bargain but it also supplied a few shocks when I was least expecting them.
In a world devastated by the Cull, it has always been the children who are most at risk from the various gangs and cults that have sprung up in the wastelands. Things are different now; organised teams are patrolling the countryside and taking children to a fate far worse than any they would have encountered on home soil. If the location of St. Mark’s school for Boys and Girls hasn’t been found already, it soon will be.
School Matron Jane Crowther not only wants to protect her charges but she also wants to rescue the children who have been taken. If Jane is to do this however she must face the one thing in this new world that she fears the most, the horrors of her own past. One thing is certain; the bullets are going to fly like never before...
‘Children’s Crusade’ not only ties up the loose ends from the previous two books but brings ‘The Culled’ and Paul Kane’s two books into the mix as well. What you get for your money then is pretty much the definitive conclusion to the ‘Afterblight Chronicles’ (at least this arc, I don’t know if there are more books planned). You might want to bear this in mind if there are other books in the series that you haven’t already read. My copy of ‘Arrowland’ arrived after I’d read ‘Children’s Crusade’ and I now know how the story there ends. You may also feel like you’re revisiting books in the series that you’ve already read as old ground is covered. I wasn’t too concerned though as I was having a great time reading the book itself.
Like I said, ‘Children’s Crusade’ is a ‘work of conclusions’ and Andrews doesn’t hang around in getting things rolling. The pace rockets along at the speed of the bullets, arrows and grenades that punctuate the narrative with moments of high tension and action. Andrews is also keen to conclude things in that most final of ways for a large number of his cast, both supporting members and the main leads. A couple of deaths came completely out of the blue for me and emphasised just how well Andrews has been quietly going about the business of creating characters that grow on you but are still only mortal. The harsh realities of post-apocalyptic living are never more apparent than in the way that the cruellest of curve balls are thrown at two of the leads. Another main character also dies but, given Andrews’ character study of this particular person, you can very much see this coming in an ‘only one way to achieve redemption’ kind of way. No surprises here but still a powerful ending that’s handled well.
Given that the nature of the book seems to be tie up loose ends from other books, and bring everything together, there isn’t a lot of room for ‘Children’s Crusade’ to have a plot in its own right. There’s a rescue attempt where Jane Crowther must face a nemesis from her past (complete with twist that I saw coming)... and that’s about it. Is it enough though? While there were bits that I wish had been explored in a little more detail (including a real missed opportunity for an explosive confrontation between two characters) there was enough going on that I couldn’t really complain whilst reading. The sound of gunfire, explosions and the screeching of tyres can fill in a lot of gaps and keeps things moving very smoothly in this instant.
‘Children’s Crusade’ does come across as being a little on the ‘light’ side as it sacrifices a more in depth plot to concentrate on tying up the series as a whole. What I found though was that the book makes up for this by really playing to its strengths, resulting in pages that I found I had to turn. ‘Children’s Crusade’ is a fine ending to this section of the ‘Afterblight Chronicles’. I’m hoping for more to come from Scott Andrews in this series.
Eight and a Half out of Ten