Talk about jumping into the middle of a story. The Undying Legion is literally the middle book of this steampunk trilogy. I should have known this before I went and requested it as an ARC, but could I really help myself at the time? No. Of course I couldn’t.
THE UNDYING LEGION
provided by NetGalley
With a flood of dark magic about to engulf Victorian London, can a handful of heroes vanquish a legion of the undead?
When monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane comes across the gruesome aftermath of a ritual murder in a London church, he enlists the help of magician-scribe Simon Archer and alchemist extraordinaire Kate Anstruther. Studying the macabre scene, they struggle to understand obscure clues in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics carved into the victim’s heart—as well as bizarre mystical allusions to the romantic poetry of William Blake. One thing is clear: Some very potent black magic is at work.
But this human sacrifice is only the first in a series of ritualized slayings. Desperate to save lives while there is still time, Simon, Kate, and Malcolm—along with gadget geek Penny Carter and Charlotte, an adolescent werewolf—track down a necromancer who is reanimating the deceased. As the team battles an unrelenting army of undead, a powerful Egyptian mummy, and serpentine demons, the necromancer proves an elusive quarry. And when the true purpose of the ritual is revealed, the gifted allies must confront a destructive force that is positively apocalyptic.
The Undying Legion is book two of the Crown & Key trilogy, so it’s clearly not a standalone book. It continues the adventures of the Crown and Key Society, a group of odd characters led by one magician-scribe, Simon Archer. Following their misadventures in book one, The Shadow Revolution, Simon, Malcolm, and Kate fall into a devious plot that involves Egyptian curses, the undead, and the rise of a powerful blood mage the likes the world shouldn’t really ever experience. A lot of what happens in The Shadow Revolution get referred to in The Undying Legion, so it would probably be a good idea to read the first book before going off and reading the second. Otherwise you’ll end up like me, highlighting the text and making bemused faces all over the place.
That said, there is enough context and description of what happened in the previous book to give me an idea of where the Society stands in the present book. Which, I guess, is enough. Though admittedly I found myself wanting to read the first book if only to get more of a glimpse of what Simon can really do with his magic. Yes, okay, so I’m drawn to a man who has inscribed himself with runic tattoos all over his body. It’s fascinating at the least, and since he’s done it as a method of combat, it’s pretty sexy at the most. I blame the Warded Man and Fenris for my finding Simon appealing. No shame.
Overall, the book, taken at face value, delivers its promise of blockbuster action and adventure. It has werewolves and mummies and gods and magic. It has swords hidden in canes, Greek fire and alchemical concoctions, steam-inventions and girl geniuses, and badass heroines with tinges of romance on the side. It certainly became a quick read once I got through the first few chapters.
I did take issue in how Mary-Sue-ish most of the fighting went. I don’t know if this was similar to how the action had taken place in the first book, but up until the final showdown, I never felt the need to worry for the main characters. Combating werewolves and legions of the undead doesn’t seem to phase them one bit, and how on earth does Malcolm–the MONSTER-HUNTER–sustain more injuries in a simple fist fight than Kate and Penny against a pack of werewolves? Don’t even get me started on Kate’s dancing around, sword in hand, as she perfunctorily decimates hundreds of undead in a cemetery. Don’t get me wrong. I love that the women in this trilogy are as badass–might be even more so–than the men in their lives, but lordy, the only person who even seems to display any type of weakness is Simon when he uses up too much magic.
Also, more romance, please. No? Darn. I’ll just leave things up to the imagination, then…
Complaints aside, I did like the book. I will probably have to find a copy of the first book before I read the next installation, The Conquering Dark.
3 out of 5 cookies!