Final installment (The Paradox, 2015, etc.) of Fletcher’s rich and splendid Victorian gothic fantasy trilogy, and once again independently intelligible.
For centuries the Oversight of London has guarded the border between the natural and magical realms and kept hidden the deadly dangerous magical Wildfire. But now the black hats have learned of the Wildfire’s whereabouts. The ghastly Citizen has made a pact with the seemingly immortal Elizabethan magician, Dr. Dee, to seize the Wildfire and release it into the mirror-maze. Viscount Mountfellon, the malign scientist-wizard, needs the Wildfire to realize his megalomaniacal dreams. But will the Templebane clan, sworn enemies of the Oversight, try to take advantage? What of the ancient race known as the Sluagh, now almost allies? Elsewhere, freelancer Caitlin Sean ná Gaolaire arrives in America with her apprentice, Lucy Harker, but the local Oversight, who call themselves the Remnant, prove independent-minded and reluctant to cooperate. Worse, the Remnant’s being duped by a powerful somebody via the mirror-maze, as we readers but not the characters themselves immediately grasp. Wayland Smith journeys to the remotest corner of the Scottish Hebrides—but why, and who will he meet there? Will the mad Ghost of the Itch Ward fullfill her desire to kill Mountfellon, and will we learn why? Can poor abused innocent Amos Templebane learn how to control his gifts and find redemption? Yes, Fletcher keeps us intrigued by posing questions we want to know the answers to, and he drives this impressive array of plot strands along with panache and dexterity—again, it’s easy to forgive the occasional flaw, so rich is the characterization and surprising the narrative. And in terms of the trilogy’s sources and backdrop, it’s certainly the most persuasive fictional use of British folklore since Robert Holdstock’s remarkable Mythago Wood.
A thoroughly enjoyable conclusion, the trilogy satisfyingly complete yet perfectly set up for future extensions.