What RW says
A contemporary Gothic tale of blood and sex and corruption. The third in the Ankerita series, but standalone all the same.
Ankerita Leighton-Mynde has died saving the life of her best friend, but a promise she made to an enchantress from the sixteenth century draws her back
from her new existence. The world she returns to has changed. Dark entities are asserting their will across the population, and the spectre of the Nazis is
rising again as Britain approaches the momentous events of the vote regarding continued membership of the European Union. Whichever way it goes, its
repercussions will have a lasting effect on the rest of the world.
Blinded, and with only a minor demon to act as her eyes, Ankerita is thrown into a power struggle between the factions, for and against. However, the darkness is rising on both sides. The actual vote is merely an excuse for the Strangers to resume their age-old battles. It is said that King Arthur will reappear when Britain faces a final crisis. That was thought to be a myth, but behind every myth there is some truth. Ankerita follows a trail to search for his remains, and instead finds the spirit of a Dark Ages chieftain to rally to her call.
Together, they descend into the limbo world of Kathartirion to rescue the witch and try to resist the darkness prevailing, but there are many more shadowy entities in there, desperate to return. The evil, which was supposed to be held for eternity, is released.
And all the time, the Buchenwald Bell tolls out its call for faithful and faithless alike, waking more of the Strangers with the Eyes of Men from their millennia of inactivity.
What the Readers Say
"‘The strangers came, and they were not like us. Something else, but wearing the skins of men, the eyes of men, their hands…’
‘Strangers with the Eyes of Men’ is part three of the ‘Ankerita’ trilogy. Ankerita, who killed her abusive if besotted husband in Tudor times and was imprisoned conscious in a vault for centuries, has escaped into the modern world, armed only with some psychic powers and the questionable help of her own chaos demon.
In part two, Ankerita had – with typical impulsiveness – performed a magical ritual that involved sacrificing her life to save her great friend, Jo. Now, in a strange beyond which seems to take the form of a ruined castle, her personal chaos demon, the irrepressible Didiubas, informs her that in carrying out that ritual, she opened a gateway for some malignant entities to enter the world.
Ankerita sees that she has unfinished business to do. She knows that her old ally Genet the Enchantress is still caught in the state between worlds for evil souls, and that she must free her. As dauntless as ever, she to Earth to take on this task, Didiubas accompanies her, pretending to be a particularly unattractive dog. But first, she must locate the last of the treasures of Albion, the Enchanted chessboard of Gwenddolau ap Ceidio. Her search leads her into a partnership with the re-awakened leader of the Ancient Briton’s, Arthur. Certainly, Ankerita needs all the help that she can get, as this time, her opponents are none other than the ancient Nephilim, some of whom were later to take over the bodies of notorious Nazis.
The latest volume is as quick moving and entertaining as the former ones. We meet many of our old favourite characters. Among them are the wimpish but lovable Wesley (who along with his sister, has at last found highly paid and suitable work as a computer hacker), the awful Yolo Jones, Ankerita’s loyal gangster friends Poppy and Illeisca and the wonderfully villainous Fantasia Stanhope, head of Stanhope Enterprises. Among the surprise appearances includes a re-awakened, opinionated and gung-ho King Arthur – revealed as not a King, but a tribal chief convinced of his mission to save mankind – and two appallingly sadistic body swapping Nazis.
In a breathtaking chase about England, we accompany Ankerita on her search for the magical artifacts which will enable her to carry through her latest quest, to unlock the vault of Kathartirion and to rescue another friend who is imprisoned there – the enchantress Genet.
The writing is vivid and concise and the dark humour will keep the reader grinning or laughing out loud, while the adventures come none stop. Yet, for all this, the author can change the mood at times with a poetic phrase, for instance in this description of Ankerita standing sightless by a deserted lake:
‘There was no answer, and now no sound than the wind in the trees and the slapping of the water in the lake below.’
Or here, where she encounters the spirit of (I suspect) that violent but now strangely protective husband she killed:
‘She was enveloped in strong arms and lifted bodily from the ground. A cool mist wrapped around her. She did not struggle as she was carried. Her saviour leaped and crashed out through the window. “I love you, more than life itself,’ said a voice in her ear… She felt different inside; lost somehow, as if a beautiful dream had come to an end.’
Of course, I may be wrong here, for the author is full of surprises, and the former identity, revealed here, of Fantasia Stanhope startled me.
I said that the style is concise and vivid, and here are a couple of quotes which typify that when recounting the action:
‘The old man led them through the concentration of cadavers sprawled across the courtyard. The smell made Ankerita gag, but Owain seemed unaffected.’
‘Ankerita heard a screeching of tyres and the hollow box sound of cars colliding… many cars.’
Finally, here are a few of my favourite humorous quotes:
‘He (Ankerita’s late husband's spirit) might know how to get my sight back, and the best way into Kathartirion.’
‘That’s a lot of hope for one bag of dust on a hill, which has probably been blown away by now, or eaten by sheep.’ (comment from Didiubas, the demon.)
‘What do I say if anyone asks where the owner of these things has gone to?' (Didiubas, left with Ankerita's clothing while she goes searching the lake.)
‘You don’t say anything; you’re a bloody dog.’
‘Oh yeah, right, I forgot.’
‘Damn the man for a jarring, fat-kidneyed miscreant.’
‘That is too weird.’
‘Weirder than having a reincarnated woman from the sixteenth century and a chaos demon in your car, whilst observing the aftermath of a fire-bombing by Nazis and hearing a song centuries old?’
‘”Where’s my credit card?”
“It’s safe,” said Ankerita. “I left it behind the bar of ‘The Throttled Goat’. The man said he’d look after it for me.”