BOOK REVIEW: Flaming Arrow

I was very happily surprised when I first got hold of a copy of Paul Kane’s first novel for Abaddon Books, Arrowhead. I’ve been a follower of the tales of Robin Hood since I was a very young man, being captivated by the Robin of Sherwood television series primarily. It was clear from Kane’s novel (and its equally enjoyable sequels) that he also felt a kinship to that series and there are strong links between it and these entries in the Afterblight Chronicles. Paul Kane’s latest entry in the post-apocalyptic series is an ebook novella titled Flaming Arrow. Having got my grubby, digital fingers on a copy, it was with great anticipation that I started to read. But would Flaming Arrow strike its target and set it ablaze? Here’s my thoughts.

AUTHOR: Paul Kane
 Abaddon Books
£2.99 (eBook)

More than a decade after claiming Nottingham Castle and founding his Rangers, Rob Stokes – the Hooded Man – has seen off Britain’s would-be conquerors, thrown his support behind the newly-restored Crown, and extended his peacekeeping force onto the Continent. He’s getting old, getting ready to hand over to his adopted son, Mark, feeling like retiring.

Trouble is brewing in the newly peaceful Britain. King Jack’s soldiers go armed with guns and armoured vehicles, even as Stokes’ Rangers disarm the people. A resistance movement is rising, led by the charismatic Virgil Sorin. Amidst the rioting, shots are fired. A fire is about to start….

I picked this up without having read the blurb (presented above) but it was apparent from the text that some deal of time had passed since the previous instalment in Robert Stokes’ life. Straight away, the reader is drawn back into the post-apocalyptic shared world that Abaddon have created with their Afterblight Chronicles series. The tale is bookended by a glimpse into the future, with a small child (who has grown up for the most part without parents and has little working knowledge of the world) meeting an old man who determines to tell the boy a story. I have to admit to being somewhat confused by the descriptions of the land originally – but all became clear by the end of the novella.

Having only read Kane’s entries in the Afterblight Chronicles (sorry Abaddon), I’m not sure whether the world in which the reader finds themselves immersed was that as seen in later novels in the series, or this is a clue as to where the series is headed. It is clear that characters from other novels are being discussed – but Kane skilfully manages to keep those isolated from the wider world of Afterblight from feeling totally lost. In my book, this is a great achievement.

Kane’s writing style is fluid and detailed. While not quite on the level of Ian Fleming, there is enough “real world” detail here for the reader to pick up on and recognise (or be able to check up on) without ever stopping the flow of the story being told. Action scenes are well presented, being both detailed and visceral where necessary. Kane is not afraid to back away from the realities of combat or brush over the results of violence.

Flaming Arrow follows two strands as the Hooded Man himself has responsibilities beyond his own band of followers by this time. One strand follows Robert as he takes part in an inspection tour of European facilities, the other follows his adopted son, Mark, who has been left in charge of the rangers. Both strands are interlaced and include Kane’s use of the mystical elements as inspired by the Robin of Sherwood series. These somehow don’t seem out of place in this post-apocalyptic world, which always surprises me when reading Kane’s books.

Flaming ArrowIf I had one criticism of Flaming Arrow, it would be that I found it ended somewhat abruptly, with no real resolution to the story presented. I believe that this may have been intentional, with the novella serving as a prequel of sorts to forthcoming titles. Many questions were left unanswered here … questions which I am sure will be resolved elsewhere but perhaps outside the scope of my (admittedly very focussed) Afterblight reading.

While this is a great novella to read, I would definitely say that any potential readers need to pick up the previous trilogy by Paul Kane. While standalone from the wider series, as a continuation of Robert Stokes and his allies, these three books are essential reading. Well, they are very good reading anyway – so go out and get them. There’s an omnibus edition available now too. Flaming Arrow isn’t perfect, seeming to end abruptly rather than conclude but I was left with a feeling of wanting to know more, which I guess was the point. This is an excellent way to pass the time on your commute or while enjoying the summer sunshine.

Flaming Arrow is available now in epub and mobi formats retailing at £2.99 in the UK and is published by Abaddon Books.

GS Rating: 4 / 5
GS Reviewer: WedgeDoc

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