Arrowland by Paul Kane
Please note that this review contains some minor spoilers if you haven’t read Arrowhead and Broken Arrow, the first two novels in this sequence.
Robert, The Hooded Man, leads the Rangers, who keep the peace in the ravaged wastelands of Britain, foiling the ambitions of warlords and petty tyrants who would take the country for themselves. Even the spirits of his beloved Sherwood Forest aid him, sending him dreams to guide his path.
Arrowland by Paul Kane is the author’s third book, set in the Afterblight Chronicles universe. The world has been stricken by a pandemic that is fatal to all but those who have the blood type O negative. In the United Kingdom, from the ruins of Nottingham, ex-policeman Robert Stokes has started to create the beginnings of a new society. Adopting the mantle of the well known legend of Robin Hood he has successfully defended his community on a number of occasions.
In the previous books I was pleased that Nottingham was used so effectively as the story’s backdrop. In the first two novels my adopted hometown has been central to the story. Anyone who has attended the British Fantasy Society convention, FantasyCon, will appreciate the in-joke about the Britannia Hotel being used as prison. This time out, however, the action moves further afield. Robert and his men are forced split up to deal with two new potential threats, a psychotic witch called ‘The Widow’ who is using Edinburgh Castle as her base and a mysterious character calling himself ‘The Dragon’ based in the heart of Wales. Robert also has to deal with the resurgence of old enemies from his past.
There is quite a strong mystical element throughout the novel. As The Hooded Man Robert is becoming almost a creature of legend himself. His opponents all speak about his feats in hushed tones. His connection with Sherwood and the land he protects is also explored. Robert is visited by visions will he sleeps and these help prepare him for the challenges he has to face. This reminded me in many ways of the excellent nineteen eighties television series Robin of Sherwood.
As the story has developed over the three books the reader gets more and more insight into the characters of Robert and his men. It’s nice to see that some of the characters bear a passing resemblance to the original Robin Hood myth. Robert/Robin has his own Marion in the form of Mary. There is a giant ex-professional wrestler called Jack rather than John. A reverend called Tate and even an ex-musician called Dale. Paul Kane has given all the characters their own story arcs and I enjoyed them all.
Abaddon Books are one of my favourite publishers at the moment. They produce some excellent on-going series that I rate very highly. The two that have really captured my imagination are Pax Britannia, which I have discussed before, and The Afterblight Chronicles.
There was part of me that didn’t want the novel to end. At a trim two hundred and sixty nine pages the action and adventure never flags. This trilogy is the first of the Afterblight Chronicles I have read, but I will definitely be purchasing more. Post apocalyptic fiction is a personal favourite of mine and based on what I have read so far The Afterblight Chronicles are an excellent example of this genre. Do yourself a favour and pick up this series of books.