We all have secrets that we keep from our loved ones, it's just human nature, but when Angela Gough's fiance Vince's secret life threatens their idyllic life together Vince has to go into hiding, leaving only an enigmatic note as the only clue as to what has happened to him. Angela embarks on a quest to find her lover. A quest that will bring her into contact with the secret world that stands in the sun sheltered place, where she will see the face behind the face of a London far removed from the one we know.
While Relics by Tim Lebbon may sound like a typical Urban Fantasy, with secret worlds existing side by side with our mundane world, a world where the denizens of the Fae cross our paths unbeknownst to the general populace. It may even share the same setting as the Rivers of London or the London Falling series, but Lebbon's unusual mix of a love story, mythical creatures and the seedy underworld of human crime syndicates marks this book as something rather special.
In many cases, prologues can be annoying or serve little purpose, hover the prologue to Relics, with its wink to a well-known genre writer, is a wonderful hardboiled way to start this novel, despite the fact that it gives away the fact that Angela survives the following story.
One of the strengths of the Relics lies in the opening segment of the novel. Lebbon's description of the relationship between Angela and Vince is powerful scene setter that lays the foundation for the non-stop thriller that ensues as Angela hunts for her lover. One of the problems that a lot of Urban fantasies have is the lack of a driving force for why the protagonist continues to do what they do when they come face to face with mind shattering reality of realising that there is a secret world. Most people would just give up without an overriding desire. Lebbon gets around this by the convincing the reader that the love between Angela and Vince is all powerful. While some may find this opening segment unnecessary, its inclusion serves to lay a solid basis for what comes later.
Angela's journey of discovery into the secret world of "relics" and the Fae is delivered with perfect pitch and pacing. Lebbon keeps the story flowing by drip feeding the reader with insights into the secret world, never fully playing his hand until a glorious final third act.
Lebbon's gift of world building is exceptional, the London we all know lives and breaths between the pages of this novel. And as we are introduced to the myriad of characters, Lebbon layers on a high-octane tension-filled narrative that hooks the reader with ease.
While Angela may be the story's main protagonist, it is Fredrick "Fat Freddy" Meloy who will probably become a fan favourite. A no-nonsense, London "businessman" whose mythology is almost as epic as the creatures he so desires to own a part of, is the real stand out character of the novel. Meloy is an uncompromising complex character, yes he is evil and has done a lot of nasty things, however despite this, Lebbon's sensitive handling of him, means that you might not like Freddy, but you cannot help but feel for him and his obsession. Lebbon also ensures that Freddy doesn't just come across as a cliched version of one of the Kray twins.
Relics' rich cast of mythical beasts, monsters and the Fae folk is truly wondrous, from Faries, nymphs, fox gods, witches, Nephilim, and even a satyr, the sense of wonder and dead that is elicited as we to them is spectacular. The journey to the other side in Relics elicits the same sense of wonder and dread as that scene in the Nightbreed film where Booth travels through Midean.
The feeling of building dread that Lebbon brings to the narrative, is exceptional and when it explodes into a thrilling final act, it is clear that Lebbon had a lot of fun writing the book. In true cinematic style the final battle between the two factions, I would hesitate to say good and evil, as Lebbon masterfully blurs the lines between them on both sides of the fight, is an over the top action packed blood-soaked battle for survival and retribution.
If you are looking for a fast-paced, thrilling story that mixes James Ellroy gritty crime fiction, with an early Clive Barker sense of wonder, then Tim Lebbon's Relics is a perfect book for you.
Beneath the surface of our world, mythological creatures and their artifacts still exist—corrupt people pay fortunes for a sliver of dragon bone, a basilisk's scale, or an angel's wing. Angela Gough is an American criminology student in London whose fiancé Vince disappears, and her investigation leads her into a black market specializing in arcane relics. She meets Mary Rock, a criminal of mythic status who also wants to find Vince… to kill him. Angela and a growing team of adventurers must stop this horrific trade, yet they face a growing menace as the hunted creatures begin to fight back.