Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"The Scar-Crow Men: Swords of Albion Book 2" by Mark Chadbourn (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Read FBC's Review of "The Silver Skull" Here

OVERVIEW: The whole city of London is living in the fear of the Black Death. People are dying left and right from the plague which has brought a black shadow over the whole city. People who normally go out are forced to stay indoors and the smell of death lingers in the air.

While the plague sweeps the city and kills thousands, another force is working to systematically kill off England’s greatest spies. This force is killing off the spies in a ritualistic fashion that almost seems as if it is planned and has a purpose. The problem is, after the death of Sir Francis Walsingham, England is more concerned with politics and self-advancement than the looming threat of a dark force that could be working for the Unseelie Court.

However, England cannot ignore the threat any longer when the devil is channeled in the middle of Christopher Marlowe’s play and Marlowe ends up dead in a remote inn room. It is up to England’s greatest spy, Will Swyfte to uncover the Unseelie Court’s plot, find the killer, and see that justice is done to Marlowe’s killer. He must do this all while being shadowed by a realistic image of Jenny his long lost love.

FORMAT: The Scar-Crow Men is the second book in The Swords of Albion series. It is a mixture of historical fiction, fantasy and mystery. While it could be read without reading the first, it is recommended to read The Silver Skull due to the many references to events and people that could be confusing if the first book was not read. The Scar-Crow Men also ends on a cliffhanger feeling. It was published on February 8, 2011 by Pyr.

ANALYSIS: After reading Mark Chadbourn’s first book The Silver Skull I was in love with this series. I recommended it to everyone I knew and could not wait for the next book in the series. So when The Scar-Crow Men showed up on my doorstep I was overjoyed and couldn’t wait to see what happened. Unfortunately, my experience with this second book is a bit of a mixed bag of disappointment and excitement.

Sure, The Scar-Crow Men is still filled with all the historical elements that I enjoyed and Mark Chadbourn does not spare the readers the details of the sights, sounds and smells of London during the plague, but there were parts of the book that left me longing for something else and feeling as if I missed out on something.

The Scar-Crow Men is more about the mystery and helping to unravel the problems that England is facing. Maybe if I had gone in with the expecatation that this was a mystery and not an advanture, I would have had a better experience but after loving the first book so much, it was hard not to go in with pre-set expectations.

The lack of adventure wasn’t the only problem I encountered during the book. Another problem I had was there seemed to be a lot of elements that either were not fully developed or could have been and had a feeling of fizzling out. The biggest example that comes to mind is the whole secret weapon that is supposed to destroy The Scar-Crow Men. I felt it wasn’t developed and just sorta thrown out there and the readers were denied any explanation on how it worked, what needed to be done or really what it was.

All of this leads me to the major problem that I had after finishing this book and sense of forward plot movement. When I completed the book I felt as if the plot or story didn’t move forward any further than when I finished the first book. Granted, we aren’t at the same spot as the first book but readers were moved maybe a centimeter which was disappointing. This could be because unlike the first book this book ended with a cliffhanger, there was no sense of closure and now I must read the third book to see what happens.

Despite all the problems I encountered I don’t plan on giving up on this series. While I loved The Silver Skull, I just thought this book was “okay”. I believe a large portion of my issues could have been expectations that I had mentally formed for this book, that it obviously didn’t live up to. That being said, I view The Scar-Crow Men as a huge setup for the third book in which I plan on reading eagerly and hopefully it’ll live up to my expectations.
One of the biggest things that I enjoyed about The Silver Skull was the adventure scenes that left you sitting at the edge of your seat. The problem is The Scar-Crow Men doesn’t have these scenes. There is very little action and because that was a huge part of what I felt made this series so special I was extremely disappointed in what this book gave me. Granted it wasn't a disappointment caused by the author but more because I went in with a set expectation and it didn't meet that. ,

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