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re­leased 24 JaN­Uary 404 pages | Pa­per­back/ebook

Au­thor Pe­ter Hig­gins Pub­lisher Gol­lancz

it’s the end of the world in Pe­ter Hig­gins’s Dragon Heart, the story of a des­per­ate at­tempt to out­run Ar­maged­don. His pro­tag­o­nists are Cas­trel, a hedge-witch and healer, and her hus­band Shay, a for­mer ship­builder. Their quiet ru­ral idyll is rudely dis­rupted by a tide of chaos sweep­ing slowly but in­ex­orably from the north, her­alded by the ap­pear­ance of in­hu­man rid­ers who leave slaugh­ter in their wake. So the cou­ple flees south, en­cum­bered first by Cas­trel’s preg­nancy and then by their new-born child.

Hig­gins’ prose tends to­wards the florid, and he paints vivid pic­tures in the tum­ble of words. It’s an in­ter­est­ing con­ceit to build a story around pro­tag­o­nists who have lit­tle un­der­stand­ing of the events they’re wit­ness­ing and no grand feats of hero­ism, but what makes the book hard go­ing is the re­lent­less pall of mis­ery con­stantly hang­ing over Shay and Cas­trel. Their flight is a long in­ven­tory of de­spair and de­cay, punc­tu­ated by bursts of ter­ror when­ever the forces of de­struc­tion threaten to over­take them. There are oc­ca­sional brief mo­ments of respite, but it’s weary­ing to walk un­der a dark, dreary cloud for so long. Too much of the dia­logue is repet­i­tive – the cou­ple cease­lessly de­clare their devo­tion to each other – and the plot­ting re­lies ex­ces­sively on coin­ci­dence to move for­ward. Drain­ing. David West

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