THE ETERNAL KINGDOM – BOOK 3 OF THE CHILDREN TRILOGY by Ben Peek, Macmillan, p/b, £14.99

Reviewed by Nigel Robert Wilson

This book is a thick tome of almost 673 pages. It will keep the reader entertained for weeks on end. If you are an avid reader who likes to be enthralled by tales of parallel universes, then this is a very sound investment.

The plot is huge, complex but highly organised and very competently knitted together. The structure is such that in order to keep the many strands moving at the same pace on similar time-lines there is an irritating need for relatively short chapters. Disappointingly, this obstructs the reader in absorbing the plot, causing repetitive leafing back and forth to maintain each section of the plot fresh in mind.

Peek has set out to write a novel about gods and men. He accepts that he tried to write an atheistic tale but ended up writing an agnostic one. This is a sad exaggeration as what he has produced is a `ye gods’ novel as his Immortals are in every instance as capricious and nasty as any reflection of humanity. Is this a reinforcement of Feuerbachian reification? If it is then it works very well. What does seem to be missing is any motive for the Immortals to behave in this way. This rather shallow understanding of what is meant by divinity suggests that Peek could have produced a better and shorter trilogy if he had researched the subject more widely. Three long novels are not needed to explore a philosophical issue which has already been well covered during the last few millenia by many agencies including the Vatican itself.

Nevertheless, wonderfully structured characters stand up throughout the tale. A particular favourite is Heast, the Captain of Refuge, leading a dynamic, self-replicating mercenary band beautifully described and explored at each stage of the novel. There is also Bueralan who becomes manifest on the huge sailing vessel `Glanfanr’. He is managed by Se’Saera, the newest and nastiest goddess on the block. She amounts to a human monster who uses and abuses her devotees. Peek has spent far too long contemplating the worst facets of Hindu mythology. This is in many ways a brutal tale with a high body count. If it fits in with any other fantasy tradition, then `Stargate’ without the frontier optimism might be a good parallel.

It would be nice at this stage of the review to say that the story ends well. It doesn’t really, but it does end leaving the reader quite exhausted. This is not so much a tale as an epic, a good quality epic. It is well-produced but this reviewer prefers something a bit more agile.