I hadn’t read the first book in this series, Black Hand Gang. But after just a few pages of this one, I was beginning to regret that fact.
This was not, as you might be assuming, because I had no clue what was happening here, but actually because this was such a brilliant premise that I immediately wanted to know more about it.
Briefly, this is about a group of British soldiers who have been transported from their ‘home’ on the Somme to an alien world.
Yes, you did read that right.
And yes, you’re correct. This should not work, as it is a concept so high that it is in danger of running out of air. Nevertheless, work it does.
The book begins with the sizeable cast picking up the pieces of what I assume are the events of the first book. Author Pat Kelleher mentions past events throughout this volume, but in such a clever way that they don’t feel forced and, more importantly, don’t make the reader feel that they have been told so much that they don’t need to read the previous volume.
The book is split into two distinct plot strands, as we follow the Zulu-like battles around the British trenches as they fight a horde of aliens while dealing with other, perhaps more sinister, events.
The second tale is of the crew of the Ivanhoe – a tank that also made the journey. This is for me the more entertaining of the two strands. Kelleher has assembled a great cast of characters, with Atkins, the down to Earth corporal charged with bringing the tank crew back and Mathers, the Lieutenant in charge of the tank being particularly interesting, although Kelleher manages to give pretty much everyone enough to do at some point during the book.
There is action aplenty here, with some very well described fight scenes, although I did not feel any urgency over the soldiers running out of ammo, even though this is something that is mentioned regularly.
If you have a peek at the cover, there is a scene depicted there that is one of the highlights of the novel. To tell you why would be cruel as it would ruin it totally, but you can just trust me on this one…
As this is the second book in a series, you should not expect everything to be sewn up nicely at the end. It is true the plot arcs for this book are brought together and resolved well, but as you would expect, there are cliff-hangers and unanswered questions aplenty there too.
I’m already looking forward to the third book in the series, but in the meantime I can comfort myself with the knowledge that I have the first one to tide myself over until Abaddon release it..