The Watcher of Dead Time. Book Review

The Watcher of Dead Time by Edward Cox
Gollancz, p/b, 368pp, £9.99
Reviewed by Richard Webb (@RaW_writing)

This completes Edward Cox’s ‘Relic Guild’ trilogy that began in 2014 with his debut, (reviewed here), and continued with ‘The Cathedral of Known Things,’ (reviewed here).

To summarise the story briefly: Labrys Town, a city with a million citizens at the centre of a maze-like universe, has been taken over by a cadre of dark mages, the Genii. Having isolated Labrys Town off from the interconnected worlds of the self-like Aelfir, the city is being held hostage, whilst the mages await the second coming of their all-powerful master.

The Relic Guild itself—a colourful collection of individuals with diverse abilities who act as protectors of Labrys—is in disarray. Under threat from different sides, the group is scattered across several worlds, trying to gather allies, artefacts and some glimmer of hope. They are running out of options, friends and time to thwart the Genii. All the while, they are watched by an enigmatic and omnipotent presence.

As with its predecessors, the book interweaves sections of the story from 40 years ago with events of the current timeline, to great effect. Not only does the historic backstory give context to the present, but rounds out characters by illustrating how decisions of the past affect the present. It is notable that these sections are not mere info-fill, but have a tension and urgency of their own.

For those readers that have followed the series so far, by now you know the drill: high-fantasy in evocative landscapes, dark magic and body-horror, and a cast of the weird,

‘were-ed’ and wonderful. Though each entry in the series so far has had its own point of conclusion, the books form one continuous story. The first two books detailed several complex, interwoven plot-lines. At the beginning of this book, there was a lot still to pull together. Many questions remained, perhaps the largest being: could this tale be effectively wrapped up? Fortunately, the author delivers ‘The Three ‘A’s of Fantasy Trilogy Completion’ (trademarked!): acceleration, arcs and answers.

– Acceleration: this book really gathers momentum. There are fights, flights, spells slung and weapons bloodied. In keeping with its predecessors, ‘The Watcher of Dead Time’ doesn’t shy from conflict. This is a war, after all. The action sequences move the plot forward and crank up the tension, just like the best action movies.

– Arcs: there are a lot of characters here—the members of the Guild itself, as well as the Genii mages that oppose them. Not to mention the higher beings all of which have their own agendas. Everyone seems to get their moment in limelight. Identities are revealed. Backstories are explained. Endings are met.

– Answers: They take time to arrive but in the back-half of the book, the numerous questions thrown up through the course of the first two books start to get answered, plot-lines mesh and the payoffs are delivered. Despite the scale and intricacy of the story, there was a definite authorial design to proceedings, ensuring a satisfying finale and conclusion to the series.

This has been one of the most imaginative and ambitious fantasy trilogies by a British author in recent memory. A great debut series from an author to watch.