Horsemen's War by Steve McHugh #BookReview

It’s a dark day for the Earth realms. Will it be the last?
Sorcerer Nate Garrett lost much in the battle that devastated Asgard, but the war against darkness is far from over. He’s spent a year searching for Arthur, hell-bent on stopping the evil leader of Avalon and rescuing his friend Tommy from his clutches. Nate’s investigation brings him to Washington, DC, where he finds the city under siege. Just when all hope seems lost, Layla Cassidy and her team arrive to join the fight, but Avalon’s deadly plan to conquer the Earth realm is underway.
Meanwhile, Mordred is on a quest to find allies in the upcoming war against Avalon, hoping to find Arthur and stop him before it’s too late.
As the rebellion forces close in on Arthur, each of them know this could be their last fight. But with Arthur massing an unstoppable army of his own, will Nate’s fury be enough to defeat him once and for all? 

I only discovered this series when I read Scorched Shadows a few years ago and although that was the end of the Hellequin Chronicles - the first of the three Chronicles series - I immediately became a fan and have been hooked ever since. Horsemen's War is the third book in the Rebellion Chronicles and the final book of the whole series so I had mixed feelings approaching it. I was excited to discover how the story (so far) ends for Nate, Mordred and Layla but must admit to reading it more slowly than usual because I didn't want it to end. I will desperately miss this eclectic group of characters - but what a way to go out!
The extensive scope of the novel finds the rebellion forces - led by a reluctant King Mordred - facing Arthur's across various realms. As with previous books, the narration is shared between Nate, Mordred and Layla, although most is told through Nate's perspective. The three storylines are equally compelling and they flow into one another effortlessly; I never experienced that jolt which sometimes occurs in books with multiple narratives. As this is the culmination of three series, there is a large cast of well-established characters now and they all appear again although understandably, some have more scenes than others. Action-packed from the start, as this brutal, extended war reaches its final battle, the bloody, magic-fuelled clashes and rising casualties on both sides meant I almost had to read with my hands over my eyes. Fortunately, you can always rely on Steve McHugh to lighten the mood with some much-needed humorous exchanges, with my favourite, foxman Remy leading the way as always with some well-observed, inventive swearing. 
The relationships between the rebellion forces are an important part of the story and they are tested to the limit here. Over the course of the series, particularly important bonds have formed between some of the characters and for all their courageous steadfastness, their fear for their loved ones becomes almost overwhelming as Arthur and his cronies seem more dangerous than ever. The inevitable losses are perhaps harder to bear than ever and although Arthur's genocidal plotting has long cast a dark shadow over the realms, the cruel torture of Tommy is especially upsetting. I genuinely had no idea who would survive and while there are moments when it appears that the Rebellion is winning, there is always a terrible sense of foreboding which meant I would have read through my fingers if I could...
The world-building is superb, of course with the vivid evocation of space bringing each location to life. The Realm of Dust is especially chilling but even the more familiar Earth Realm settings are constructed in full, exciting technicolour. Although set in an alternative reality, Horsemen's War feels remarkably prescient; I read it during the recent Capitol coup attempt and it was impossible not to make comparisons between the fictional megalomaniac and his real-life counterpart. 
Perhaps this is what really lies behind the success of this entire series - for all the gods, wizards, were-creatures, dragon-kin, umbras, dwarves, elves and that unforgettable three-foot vulpine mischief-maker, these wonderful characters are entirely relatable and their resolute belief that evil cannot be allowed to prevail is a stirring beacon of hope during these fractured, uncertain times. Horsemen's War is a gripping, emotional rollercoaster of a conclusion to what has been an outstanding series. I'm desperately sad to have reached the end but so excited to read whatever Steve McHugh writes next.

Horsemen's War is published by 47North and can be purchased from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

About the Author

Steve's been writing from an early age, his first completed story was done in an English lesson. Unfortunately, after the teacher read it, he had to have a chat with the head of the year about the violent content and bad language. The follow up 'One boy and his frog' was less concerning to his teachers and got him an A.

It wasn't for another decade that he would start work on a full length novel, the result of which is Crimes Against Magic.

He was born in a small village called Mexborough, South Yorkshire, but now lives with his wife and three young daughters in Southampton.
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