The Four Realms by Adrian Faulkner
Half-vampire Darwin stumbles across a corpse on the streets of London, and in a pocket discovers a notebook in a mysterious language. Divided between human ethics and vampire blood lust, Darwin finds himself both condemner and saviour of a race who’ve never considered him one of their own. Now, he must try and lead the survivors to sanctuary in New Salisbury before Mr West completes his genocide of the vampires in his quest to obtain the book…
Maureen Summerglass is eighty-two years old, a prisoner in her ramshackle home. She is afraid to let people enter in case they discover the oak door in her cellar. Threatened with homelessness and retirement from her job as a gatekeeper between worlds, Maureen breaks protocol when the death of a close friend is covered up… and enters the city of New Salisbury to search for his missing notebook. There, she discovers a world unlike the one of myth and fairy tale she imagined, and instead one of black market economies, brand names and tuk tuks. As she investigates, not only is she in extreme danger, but discovers she may be the first human female able to use magic…
People who know me in real life are we aware of the fact that I read a great deal. Most know that I write reviews on a regular basis, and from time to time they ask my opinion. What are you reading at the moment and (more importantly I suppose) is it any good? Is a regular question. Sometimes I have to spend time explaining why a book is worth reading, but then other times it’s terribly simple. The Four Realms falls squarely into the latter category. All I have to mention is the fact that there are centaurs with shotguns and it all suddenly because clear. Centaurs with shotguns people!
Maureen stepped out of the entrance of the Friary and was almost knocked over by a dwarf in a Guns ‘n’ Roses T-Shirt, listening to an iPod.
I immediately warmed to Maureen Summerglass, you don’t get a great many octogenarian heroines in literature and I think more should be encouraged. She’s spent her whole life trying to protect the gateway below her home, always thinking of everyone but herself. She has remained steadfast in her role and never once deviated from it. Only when her friend Ernest is murdered does she find herself compelled to investigate. Her friendship with a troll called Joseph is one of the highlights of the novel. At first glance Maureen and Joseph seem like the most improbable pairing, maybe that’s way why their relationship comes across so well.
At other points the narrative also follows another couple of characters. There is Darwin the half-vampire and his friend Cassidy, both of who are really down on their luck. Darwin is conflicted about being a vampire but when faced with the extinction of his race he is forced to take steps. Finally there is the gleefully sinister Mr. West. West and his colleagues have their own unique agenda and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.
Where The Four Realms really succeeds is successfully bringing together elements from fantasy, traditional and cosmic horror into one wonderfully chaotic adventure. I’ll admit I wasn’t always entirely sure what was going on but I found myself happily getting drawn along for the read. I particularly liked the many-tentacled nods in H P Lovecraft’s direction.
Faulkner has created a great plot that’s very easy to get caught up in. The cast of characters work well and the world that the author has invented is consistently interesting. If anything I think I would have liked perhaps a little more detail about some of the other realms that are eluded to but that’s a minor quibble.
The Four Realms is published by Anarchy Books and will be available from the 26th December 2012.