Throne of Darkness

Written by Douglas Nicholas
Review by Elizabeth Knowles

Northern England, 1215. In this third of a series (after Something Red and The Wicked), travelling musicians Maeve, Nemain, Jack, and Hob are again faced with supernatural foes. Maeve and Nemain are actually Irish queens with magical powers. Jack, Mollie’s warrior lover, and Hob, a knight-in-training and Nemain’s husband, support the two women and each other. The four have become a family over the course of the three novels.

Just prior to the Magna Carta, evil King John has brought in an African sorcerer, whose men-at-arms can change into dangerous, bone-breaking hyenas. The North and possibly all of England are in danger. Pope Innocent III sends his envoy to solicit Maeve’s and her family’s help. In return, Maeve and Nemain will be aided in the future, when they return to their rightful position in Ireland.

This story has episodes of violence and horror, but it is not as blatant as in the previous book. The two hundred hyena-men are scary, all right, and Maeve worries a good deal about whether she can defeat them. She does find an ingenious way to battle the horde, and fans of supernatural battle scenes will find them here. Nicholas’s background as a poet lends the prose richness, with lyrical descriptions of the English countryside that do not slow the suspense one bit. There is also a pleasant visit to Hob’s boyhood home, although it isn’t without danger.

This story stands alone, but for new readers just getting to know the four friends, it would be best to read the first and second novels in order.