Series Review | Relics Trilogy | Tim Lebbon
I recently listened to Tim Lebbon's Relics Trilogy. Instead of doing a singular review for each book, I have collected the reviews for all three books here. I listened to these consecutively, so I thought I would do the reviews back to back.
The first of the Relics Trilogy by Tim Lebbon was released in 2017 and introduces the reader to the urban fantasy world where relics of magical beings that lived thousands of years are sold on the black market at excessive prices.
The world of Relics is introduced to us from the perspective of Angela Gough, a criminology student who has a virtually bucolic existence with her boyfriend Vince. They spend their time doing what new couples tend to spend their time in, and then researching information for her criminology thesis.
However, things take a drastic turn when Vince does not return home from work. This leads Angela to try to find out where he has gone. In her panic she searches for him at his place of work, leading her to discover that Vince is not all he seems.
In her search to find Vince she discovers that Vince has been leading a double life and that he is involved with a black-market trade in Relics, the selling of artefacts from mythological creatures from another age. As she digs more and more into Vince’s shady dealings in her hunt to find out what has happened to him, she discovers that the creatures from myth and legend are alive and well and living in London.
In her search she will come to discover that the things that she thought that only lived in books, survive in a world where humans despise their existence. Not only that, but she will also travel to an underworld of criminals and mythical beings.
In the first introduction to the series, Relics mainly deals with Angela and Vince. For the initial part of Relics, Tim Lebbon initially keeps the pace quite fast and disorientating as Angela both searches for Vince, but is also discovering that there is a world that sits parallel to ours that she had no idea was there
It’s a familiar formula, and one that I have seen many times in urban fantasy. However, what Tim Lebbon cleverly does is introduce Angela to two worlds. Both equally mythic in their own rights. One is the world where the things like nymphs, pixies, Nephilim and other creatures exist. However, there is also the criminal underworld, that has just as much mystery, but the figures of legend in this world are human, with the likes of Fat Frederick Malloy being the main focus.
Now one of the things that I don’t generally like about urban fantasy is when the protagonist learns of this other world, we are usually introduced to this massive world that involves a lot of world building, introduction to a whole host of new characters etc, which I don’t particularly tend to get along with. However, Lebbon takes a more restrained introduction to the alternate world that lives alongside ours and tends to drip feed information and we discover this plane of existence at much the same speed that our main protagonist does, which works really well as you are not overcome by a massive world building exercise in the middle of the story.
One of the things that I like about Tim Lebbon’s books is that he writes really good characters, and in Relics, the characters virtually walk off the page. Fat Frederick Malloy is one of the standout characters as whilst he is violent and brutal, he also has a childlike fascination for the creatures of the otherworld, who call themselves the Kin. Not only that the rest of the characters are equally as fascinating, especially Mallian, the Nephilim who is brutally obsessed with idea that the Kin’s time will come again, and that this ideology is what drives him.
Now, be warned, this book does not hold back on the gore and there is quite a body count in this book, and I have to say some very repugnant characters, both Kin and Human.
Moving on to the second book, The Folded Land, we see the continuation of the story, but this time the characters are expanded, as is the world as the setting moves from the UK to the US.
At the end of the last book, we learn that the mysterious faerie Grace (and I have purposefully stayed away form story details due to the fact that this is a series review and I want to keep spoilers to a minimum!) has other ideas about how she lives. Following her rescue, she has disappeared.
Meanwhile, Angela is still in prison (not a spoiler as we start book 1 with this information) and Vince is still missing.
In the Folded Land, we discover that Grace is seeking out Kin to come with her to her new land that she promises will let the Kin live as they should, free from inhibitions, free from hiding and free from being hunted, a kind of kin utopia.
Like I said, we are introduced to new characters in The Folded Land, particularly Sammi, Angela’s cousin who following her mother’s death has been living with her father. One day, strange lightning strikes Sammi and she is taken to hospital. Upon her release, she is shortly struck again, which leads to her disappearance.
Angela, Vince, Lilou, the nymph from the first book, and Fat Frederick Malloy travel to the US to find Sammi, but also to attempt to stop the faerie Grace.
Now for me, The Folded Land was a much weaker book than the first, and not only that there are some continuation problems with this story. As I read these books back to back, there was a glaringly evident continuation misstep in this story in that one of the characters in the last book was well and truly killed. There was no mystery surrounding her death and a total lack of ambiguity. I mean the character had its head ripped off and it was seen to be eaten by one of the kin. Pretty definitive if you ask me.
However, for some reason they turn up in the second book, head attached and totally not eaten. The character in question is quickly killed off again.
Like I said, I found that this was the weakest book of the three. Yes, there are some shocks and surprises in the story, and we do get to see more of the world that Tim Lebbon built in Relics. However, I did not feel that there was much in the way of character development in this second book, and the story seemed to primarily be concerned with moving the story on to its conclusion in the third book. Now, I have read fantasy trilogies enough to know that this is the purpose of each book, but they usually have the foundations of being a story in their own right, and this was one of the primary weaknesses for me in that the foundational story in itself did not hold up to the quality of the first book.
Now, it’s a good job that this was a Tim Lebbon book as there were other aspects of the story that saved it from being thrown to the DNF pile, and that was the fact that the character relations in the story were the thing that kept the story flowing.
As usual the end of the second instalment was great and it left it open for the third book and now we are back on form.
The Edge by Tim Lebbon is the third instalment in his relics series, and leads us to the culmination of the events that were set up in the first book. Mallian the Nephilim’s plan to lead the kin back to the great ascension and to bring the kin from hiding and back to their rightful places as rulers of this earth and return the Kin to ‘The Time Before’ where the Kin were at their strongest and the land was full of their magic and might.
With the Edge, Tim Lebbon returns to form as he brings about the ending to the epic tale of the fight between kin and humans.
The story itself deals with the events of what happens in the Fold, the magical pocket of existence that the faerie Grace has built so that she can have her own world to exist in. However, The Fold was not as it was promised, and it soon becomes apparent to the Kin that were drawn to this land by Grace with her promise of living as one with the land, unfettered by the human world is not as it seems.
Not only that, along with the captured Nephilim, Mallian, Vince is once again separated from Angela.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, Angela is living a sheltered existence with her young cousin, Sammi, and is trying to raise her away from the world in order to keep the existence of both her identity away from the world as she is still wanted in connection to the murders in the first book, and also the existence of the Kin. Those strange other folk that live side by side from humans in secret for fear of being hunted.
Unbeknowest to her, she is being watched over by the Nymph Lilou,, who one day turns up out of the blue requesting that she accompany her to a forgotten town that has resurfaced. This mysterious town was the site of an experiment by the US government and for years has been lying at the bottom of a reservoir where its secrets have been hidden from the world, until one day, the reservoir has become dry and the town re emerges form its watery grave to expose its secrets.
Starting with the catastrophic events that leads to the town being drowned by the US Government, The Edge is a return to form for Tim Lebbon as he swiftly moves the story along to the trilogy’s epic conclusion.
As usual the tale twists and turns as Angela, Vince and the gang attempt to stop Mallian from attaining his goals of ascension. Quite a few of the characters form the second book are present in the third book, along with Sammi, who we learn is slowly changing and becoming true to her blood.
The Edge is a fast moving pacey book, and again shows Tim Lebbon’s ability to incorporate relationship drama with the bloody fantasy elements of the story that was began in Relics.
It’s a satisfying end to the story that quite neatly closes the trilogy.