Earlier this year I read the first two books in C.F. Barrington’s Pantheon series. I thoroughly enjoyed their mash-up of historical warfare in a contemporary setting; Vikings battling the armies of Alexander on the streets of Edinburgh. The idea is somewhat preposterous but also highly compelling. After the cliffhanger climax of book two The Blood Isles, what would happen in The Hastening Storm? Would the series continue to climb to new heights of excitement or would the law of diminishing returns set in as a great premise grew tired?
I am pleased to report that The Hastening Storm, takes us to new levels of excellence.
As this is book 3 of a 4-book series there are some mild spoilers in the following review. I’ve tried to keep them to a minimum so new readers can read my thoughts and decide for themselves whether to dive into book 1, The Wolf Mile. (TL;DR – You should!)
Why Read The Hastening Storm?
Firstly, there is a suspension of belief required to enjoy the Pantheon series. A suspension that is well worth it for all the swords and shields shenanigans that go on over the course of these three volumes.
I was concerned after reading the first two books that C.F. Barrington wasn’t going to be able to keep the competition at the center of the books from feeling contrived. It has combatants across the globe, taking inspiration from various different periods of history, but for some reason two of them reside in Edinburgh. These two are free each year to beat seven bells out of one another against the backdrop of the Scottish capital, but what happens in Rome or with the warband based on the Mongol horde; when do they fight?
The Hastening Storm goes some way to explaining all this. At last, we get some insight into the other factions of the Pantheon and see how its battle structure works. With some global context we now know more about the full extent of what there is to play for.
Meanwhile, we have to deal with the fallout of the cliffhanger of book 2. Tyler Maitland finds himself facing a new predicament and once again, he has drawn the attention of powerful forces within the game. His new journey sets us off down another ancient history/modern world mash-up that makes the series so enjoyable.
If there is a neat trick in The Hastening Storm it’s that C.F. Barrington manages to give us another origin story without feeling like the previous two books were wasted. We’re all geeks here. Who doesn’t love an origin story? Once again, there are exciting night battles on the streets of Edinburgh, this time taking in the zoo and Waverley station. Two great places in their own right, even without seax wielding Vikings charging through them!
The book works up to a pitched battle between the Valhalla Horde and Alexander’s Lions. Tyler’s involvement, again, will be pivotal but which way will his intervention fall? I was actually shocked at how this book finished. If you thought book two was a cliffhanger, this ending has us teetering on the edge of the cliff where cliffhangers go to scare themselves silly. I actually gave an audible squeal of dismay when I realized I wasn’t going to get the resolution I was looking for until the next book. (Raises fists to the sky! Curse you Mr Barrington and your clever plotting!)
There is one more book to go in the series one that will almost certainly see further incursions from the other factions that take part in the Pantheon. I’m simultaneously forlorn that I only have one of these thoroughly entertaining books left to read whilst being pleased that there is little chance of The Pantheon books outstaying their welcome. Roll on The Bone Fields!
If The Pantheon Were A Game?
I brought this question into my review of The Children of Gods and Fighting Men and I alluded it in my first review of C.F. Barrington’s books. It’s impossible to read this book without thinking about tabletop skirmish games, whether that be The Lion Rampant or Saga, filled with miniatures from Gripping Beast or Victrix, there are so many opportunities for painting and playing miniatures games. All the more so because we get a sneaky look at all of the forces that take part in the games. Now we can imagine adding Huns, Mongols, and Romans to our tabletops!
If miniatures games aren’t your thing, how about a card game? An obvious contender would be Osprey’s asymmetric game Imperium: Classics in which you can play either Carthaginian, Celt, Greek, Macedonian, Persian, Roman, Scythian, or Viking forces. It’s a fun game with each faction having different strengths and weaknesses you need to exploit and overcome in order to find your way to victory. Much like the generals and foot-soldiers of the Pantheon!
Disclosure: I was sent a copy of The Hastening Storm in order to write this review.