Updated: Jan 20
This is a real world fantasy series that has all the hallmarks of epic adventure with the in-depth research and world building of historical fiction.
It is a series of books seemingly written for the screen, with each chapter a short, sharp burst of action or drama, as the action flips between the sweeping landscapes of war torn Europe to the dark and tense corridors of the Vatican city.
The cast of characters, fronted by Inquisitor Poldek Tacit, are brilliantly created, each has hidden depths, dark secrets lurking in the shadows of their past, some of which are revealed in this final chapter of the trilogy.
Tacit himself is a wonderful character. A scarred old warrior with a tortured past, a man with a destiny that has been hidden to him until now. His secret is the darkest of all. There is something inside of him, something desperate to get out. To defeat his enemies, it seems that Tacit must first overcome himself.
My only quibble with this instalment was that the constant changing of scene in the short chapters, at one point became quite confusing (Tacit was in Constantinople in one chapter, then Kiev, then back in Constantinople, then again in Kiev, without ever seeming to travel?) almost reminiscent of GR Martin moving an army across the world at the speed of sound to dig himself out of a plot hole! But it's a minor quibble and didn't derive from the overall enjoyment of the novel.
On the whole I love the concept of the church fighting a hidden war against a backdrop of the devastation of WWI. And last of all, I cannot finish a review of this book without bringing up the Spanish flu. A secret vial opened in China that spreads a deadly virus across the world - remind you of anything? Covid 19 and the devastating effect it's had on the world will be talked about for a thousand years, but the Spanish flu that ravaged the world at the end of WWI was every bit as deadly, and at a time where countries were so focused on killing each other and medical science was not as evolved as it is today, it must have been a truly terrifying time to be alive. Tarn weaves this into the plot brilliantly, I genuinely didn't see it coming.
As a trilogy I've found the three books to be fantastic, it is a story arc that could stand proudly with grimdark fantasy greats such as Joe Abercrombie whilst being every bit as immersive as anything written by Conn Iggulden, and I can't wait to see what Tarn writes next!