Anarchy is the follow-up to James Treadwell’s scintillating debut novel Advent. I totally fell in love with that book, so I was very interest to see what he did with the sequel.  The story picks up not long after the events of Advent yet in many ways this feels like a fresh start.

The first section transplants the action from Cornwall to a remote corner of Vancouver Island.  Female Mountie ‘Goose’ Maculloch is baffled as to how a teenage girl could have walked out of a locked cell and apparently disappeared into thin air. Gradually it becomes clear that this is one part of the wave of mysterious events that is sweeping across the globe.

Anarchy gets off to a slow start, building a sense of unease rather than jumping straight into the action.  Big things may be happening in the wider world but the focus is on the effect this has on a small group of characters.

Whilst Advent was mainly told from the point of view of teenage boy Gavin, Anarchy focuses on three female characters, all very different, but each on a frightening and dangerous journey of self-discovery.  Magic is returning to the world and no-one will remain untouched by it.  James Treadwell excels at its creating characters which are both unique and completely believable.  In some cases his characters have a view of the world that wildly differs from the average person’s, but they are always, always compelling.

This is a story of the end of the world as we know it but, despite the chaos suggested by the title, the collapse of civilisation is a gradual process.  The technology which modern humans so rely upon is slowly failing and being replaced by other older and much stranger forces.  People react to this in very human ways – some go firmly into denial, others are caught up in zealotry, but most simply try to survive.

As we follow the characters on their journeys through the strange new world we are shown incidents both of horrifying violence and touching compassion.  This is a darker book than its predecessor, with one particularly shocking moment near the end which will stay with the reader for a long time.  Anyone who took this to be Young Adult series because of its teenage heroes might want to rethink that assumption.  Nevertheless this is not an unrelentingly bleak tale.  There are plenty of moments of kindness, bravery and love to counter-balance the darkness.

People may find it a little frustrating that there are several gaps in the narrative, and that the main character from the last book spends a lot of the time missing in action.  This is an author you can have faith in, though.  He just likes to keep a few cards close to his chest.  Several key moments of this story are told from the point of view of characters who don’t really understand what is happening and it is left to the reader to piece together the clues.

However, I think it makes for a more rewarding experience, avoiding the spoon-fed easy answers.  It also leaves room for a third book in the series to fill in some of the gaps.  This is a brilliant sequel, exploring the themes of its predecessor more deeply whilst broadening the vistas of the world.  If Advent was the stone dropping in a pool, Anarchy charts the ripples spreading out from it in ever-widening circles, changing the face of the world.

Lyrical, mysterious and uncomfortable, Anarchy is never less than a riveting read.  Who knows where the journey will take us next?  I, for one, can’t wait to find out.

Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Clover Winton-Polak

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