Basing fantasy adventure stories around the Arthurian legends is nothing new, and nor is setting them in wartime. What is different, is mixing them both together, into a Big book with a Big story.
This is a dark tale set at a dark time with a sinister Master and young boy mourning the loss of his brother in the war which has a feel of Neil Gaiman book, but there is an underlying adventure story that is reminiscent of the magic of Diana Wynne Jones with but in its Arthurian links I find Susan Cooper’s Dark Is Rising Sequence the most influential. We quickly learn what the Winter’s Grasp of the title is and what it can do and we are pitched into a medieval ‘road trip’ to get home in an unfamiliar world.
Just how unfamiliar the world is is just one of the many twists of the book that is cleaning leading up to the series. And whilst I am looking forward to reading the next instalment of the series (something which I hope John Scotcher is already deeply immersed in writing), it is this ‘first book in a series’ nature of the story that I find most troubling. We are always wondering what exactly the Master is wondering and it is never quite explained.
If you have wondered how dangerous dreams can be this is the story that you should be reading.