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Literature / The Age of Misrule

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The Age of Misrule is an Urban Fantasy series by Mark Chadbourn which consists of a trilogy of trilogies.

Cast your mind back to January of 2000. Remember that note in the Fortean Times about paranormal phenomena taking a sudden spike? And weird shapeshifters screwing with the power supply? And the dragon destroying London? You don't? Well, sit a spell...

Once upon a time, the world was all magicky and stuff. Existence was ruled over by the wise, powerful, benevolent-yet-occaisionally-sadistic race called the Golden Ones. Then, from the edge of reality came a race of nihilistic shapeshiftery things called the Fomorians. Wackiness ensued. No, not that kind of wackiness.

Somewhere in the middle of this, humans became aware of the fact that they could do cool stuff (unfortunately, the Golden Ones and the Fomorians were quite convinced that The World Was Not Ready and were happy to kill people to be sure it stayed that way). Eventually, the Golden Ones and the Fomorians agree to leave the Earth behind and go off to the Otherworld, where they agree to not kill each other. Taking the monsters of myth and most of the cool magic swords with them, and leaving mankind to outgrow its magical and intuitive leanings, and learn about, you know, logic and strip-mining and stuff.

Which brings us up to 2000. For no apparent reason, all the magic monsters come back to Earth. The Golden Ones are prepared to lead humanity into its glorious future as a race of divine star-gods (or to drug us and rape our corpses. They tend to be, you know, down for whatever). The Fomorians activate the Wish-Hex, which locks out the Golden Ones and leaves the Fomorians free to drug us and rape our corpses.

The only people who can save the day are the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, a Five-Man Band with magic powers (assisted in some of the books by an old hippy called Tom - a ''really'' old hippy) and some truly messed-up backstories. They have to assemble the Plot Coupons that will bring out the race they know as the Tuatha de Danann - the Golden Ones - who seem like the better deal. Just not by much.

You can't bring back the gods and demons of Celtic Mythology without a few side-effects, though. Cue rolling blackouts, alien abductions, lycanthropes, spooky visitations, psychopathic goblins... oh, and a guy called Balor, aka the End of Existence.

A few years later, After the End, a second lot of Brothers and Sisters are called upon to fight the Lament-Brood, a gang of nihilistic shapeshifters who suck all the confidence out of their opponents, who happen to be backed up by an army of zombified gods. Teaming up with the remains of the British government, the Lament-Brood commission a device which taps into the newfound magic's inherent ability to rewrite reality, to turn the world into, well, Real Life (circa 2006, anyway). No zombie gods, no sadistic higher beings, no impending magical apocalypse... but on the other hand, no radical growth, no magic powers and no wonderful toys.

But salvation is at hand, in the form of Jack 'Church' Churchill, an archeologist/writer from London, who thanks to the wonders of Timey-Wimey Ball metaphysics is responsible for the legend of Jack the Giant Killer, and is on a quest to break the spell, while avoiding an entity called the Spider.

The books are:

  • Trilogy 1: The Age of Misrule
    • World's End
    • Darkest Hour
    • Always Forever

  • Trilogy 2: The Dark Age
    • The Devil in Green
    • The Queen of Sinister
    • The Hounds of Avalon

  • Trilogy 3: Kingdom of the Serpent
    • Jack of Ravens
    • The Burning Man
    • Destroyer of Worlds

These books provide examples of:

  • Anyone Can Die: And quite a few heroes do. Veitch even manages it four times, the final one wiping him from Existence. Mallory and Caitlin also bite the dust.
  • Axe-Crazy: The Morrigan. And then some.
  • Badass Pacifist: Shavi really hates fighting, but in spite of this he's willing to descend into the underworld, endure haunting from the ghost of his dead boyfriend, and even allow a malicious spirit to tear out his eye. That's pretty badass.
  • Catchphrase Interruptus: Tom has a saying, "There are no coincidences." By the end of the first book, the heroes can tell when he's going to use it.
  • Character Development: Pretty much everyone, but most noticeable in Veitch's case. To be specific, he changes from a bad-tempered homophobe into a genuinely loyal and heroic individual. After Church kills him at the end of Always Forever (Book 3), though, he becomes a complex antagonist, before finally developing into The Atoner.
  • Cool Sword: Caledfych, Llyrwyn and the unnamed weapon that Veitch acquires.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Laura, and to some extent Hunter.
  • Death of a Child: In "The Queen of Sinister." Although it's established fairly early on that Liam will die, everyone keeps building Carlton up as the innocent who could help turn the tide against the plague. Then Matt cuts his throat.
  • Deus ex Machina: The Puck tends to play this role quite a lot, but most obviously at the beginning of the final book in the sequence aboard the Last Train
  • Corrupt Church: the remains of the Catholic Church went that way for a bit After the End, but considering that most of their belief structure was revealed as either wrong or not entirely accurate, they were lucky to still be around...
  • Five-Man Band: Each set of Brothers and Sisters of Dragons are this. Take the characters from the first trilogy:
    Likewise the heroes of the second trilogy
    Eventually settling down as follows (spoilered because of author Mark Chadbourn's Anyone Can Die approach
  • Curbstomp Battle: What the incoming supernatural forces did to the UK armed forces in the first book. Because of Immune to Bullets taken to include all non-magical weapons, the Fomorians and other monsters took zero injuries while the armed forces were slaughtered to the man.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Exactly what Jack Churchill fears: He doesn't want to become The Libertarian
  • Idiot Hero: Church displays this for parts of the first book, such as picking up a black rose from the creepy ghost of his dead girlfriend and not becoming suspicious...
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: The Balor Claw. It's a clawed gauntlet. That kills gods. In a single hit.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Church's observation in "The Burning Man" of: "You've got to be kidding me. Kung fu foxes?"
  • Mystical Plague: This occurs in The Queen of Sinister. A mystical plague that kills human life essence itself (basically 100% fatal, and dissolves its victims flesh leaving them just a load of pus inside a bag of skin and since it comes from the otherworld there is no known vector, source, or cure for the disease) is the chosen tool for this book. Too bad for it that two of the early victims were the son and husband of a woman that is an unknowing mystical champion of humanity, and the plague which was supposed to destroy her wakes that mystical potential. Nice Job Fixing It, Villain.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The Dragons in these stories are literally the blood of reality. Pure Energy. They are even called Fabulous Beasts.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Jack (the younger one, not Church) as he has a destructive Wish Hex inside him.
  • Powers That Be: the Golden Ones have good intentions, but spending most of eternity thinking of humans as animals means they don't have much reason to be nice. And they're usually not.
  • Public Domain Artifact: the Plot Coupons are from British myths. The author takes advantage of the fact that most of them are based on stories that no-one knows the origin of to explain why mystic beings who can rewrite reality are interested in stuff like the sword Excalibur.
  • Right Through the Wall: Played for laughs, when Veitch is disturbed by the noise coming from Church's room.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Mallory after Sophie is killed and wiped from Existence
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: well, more Screw The Rules I Have Magic Powers, but the sentiment stands.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Hal and Hunter, respectively. Shavi and Veitch also share a close friendship, not that Veitch would admit it easily.
  • Trilogy Creep: The series began as straightforward fantasy trilogy but quickly expanded to become a "trilogy of trilogies".
  • The World Is Not Ready: The government thinks that the public is not ready for the news that psychopathic shapeshifters and telepathic elementals are hunting each other through the rapidly-disintigrating apparatus of British civilization. Unfortunately, they're right.