SWASHBUCKLERS by Dan Hanks.
Angry Robot Books. p/b. £9.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
Cisco Collins has returned to Dark Peak after 32 years. He has grown up, married, had a child, lost his wife to a gym instructor and overhauled his life, but his childhood town hasn’t changed at all since Halloween 1989 and that gas leak, the incident that forced Cisco to leave amid whisperings and accusations.
He has returned, and Doc, his once best friend, is more than a little surprised when Cisco and his son bump into her at a café. Unfortunately, his trip down memory lane, caught in the comfort of 80s nostalgia, won’t last long at all. He is not just here for old friends and memories. There has been a murder, and the culprit was reported to be a giant children’s TV character. Police are looking for a killer and a costume, but Cisco knows better…
1989 was no gas leak, and this is not the first time characters have visited Dark Peak with evil intent. He knows it. They know it, his friends. Deep down, they must know it. They must remember. But none of them seems to. How can he help them remember? And should he?
Swashbucklers is a fast-paced and somewhat bonkers tale of characters who come to life determined to destroy humanity. The story follows Cisco as he and his friends are plunged into battle with oversized Stay-Puft-like characters, armed with home-crafted proton-pack-like weapons. Throw in fairies, talking animals, an evil pirate, killer Christmas elves and the whole mix gets stranger.
For 80’s nostalgia, this book is an absolute treat, but for this reader, when, around a third of the way in, the story revealed itself as a post-lockdown adventure for Cisco, and the reality of COVID-19 appeared across the pages, the joy of escapism and the spell of nostalgic magic was broken. For those interested in embracing these pandemic times and seeing that appear in genre fiction, then this book will work.