Time of the Beast

Written by Geoff Smith
Review by Alan Fisk

In 666 A.D., Athwold, a young monk who has found himself at personal and doctrinal loggerheads with his abbot, leaves his monastery to go and live as a hermit in the dank and sinister semi-flooded Fens of eastern England. The inhabitants are mostly as mysterious and threatening as the landscape, but Athwold finds his monastic vows under threat from the beautiful Alisa. Soon, though, there is no room in his mind for anything except fear of the vile and powerful monsters who seem to have selected him for constant and merciless attack. When all is at its worst, Athwold is rescued by the wandering monk Cadroc and his local guide Alfric. Together the three set out to stalk and destroy the greatest monster of them all.

The atmosphere of the Fens in a truly Dark Age world is very effectively evoked, as is the mindset of the time. While we recognise some of the terrors that the characters encounter as being no more than natural phenomena, the people of the time do not. I thought that Athwold’s epiphany and change in his life at the end was not quite so plausible, but Time of the Beast unusually combines fine writing with a series of properly horrid revelations. Recommended.