The Thirteen Hallows, by Michael Scott and Colette Freedman

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Michael Scott’s website / Colette Freedman’s website
Publication date – December 6, 2011

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) The Hallows. Ancient artifacts imbued with a primal and deadly power. But are they protectors of this world, or the keys to its destruction?

A gruesome murder in London reveals a sinister plot to uncover a two-thousand-year-old secret.

For decades, the Keepers guarded these Hallows, keeping them safe and hidden and apart from each other. But now the Keepers are being brutally murdered, their prizes stolen, the ancient objects bathed in their blood. Now, only a few remain.

With her dying breath, one of the Keepers convinces Sarah Miller, a practical stranger, to deliver her Hallow—a broken sword with devastating powers—to her American nephew, Owen. The duo quickly become suspects in a series of murders as they are chased by both the police and the sadistic Dark Man and his nubile mistress.

As Sarah and Owen search for the surviving Keepers, they unravel the deadly secret the Keepers were charged to protect. The mystery leads Sarah and Owen on a cat-and-mouse chase through England and Wales, and history itself, as they discover that the sword may be the only thing standing between the world… and a horror beyond imagining.

Thoughts: And did those feet in ancient time… It didn’t take long for me to realize that this book was heavily based around the old legend that Jesus went to England, though it surprised me how long it took the book to state it explicitly. There were very strong hints throughout, interestingly from the viewpoint of Jesus/Yeshu’a himself. (Something here I’d like to point out is that he was alternately called Yeshu’a and Yeshua, and I’m not sure if they were printing/copyediting errors or if the authors couldn’t decide whether or not to actually include the apostrophe.)

The plot revolves around Sarah, a woman who seems to have perpetually bad luck when it comes to those around her being killed by a group of people bent on recovering the sacred Hallows for a mysterious man bent on using the Hallows for his own purposes. Sarah is on the run from the police, who believe that she is the one committing the murders, while she unravels the mysteries of the Hallows and races against time to keep her Hallow from the hands of the aforementioned mysterious man. The plot has many layers and many viewpoints which really add to the excitement and tension of the tale.

There was a good deal of name-dropping in the book, not so much of people but of brand names. In most cases this added to the atmosphere and the realism of the story, but in some cases seemed excessive and pointless. Maybe I’m just brand-name illiterate, but mentioning that someone has a Dolce & Gabana jacket did nothing for me but tell me that there’s a company called Dolce & Gabana that makes jackets. I can assume by context that it’s a fancy brand, but the same effect could have been given by simply calling the jacket “expensive.”

There were some truly frightening and gruesome descriptions of murder and death here that are not for the faint of heart. While they never went over the top, they did on occasion make me feel a little nauseous, which is a credit to the authors for the realism of the scenes they set up. The killers are brutal and cruel, and the people ordering the killings are a frightening duo who constantly evoked emotions within me. The relationship between Ahriman and his wife was both twisted and touching, and thought it would have been easy to see it as a relationship devoted to sex and power, I think they genuinely did, in their own ways, care about each other beyond that.

Though I do have to comment here on the ultimate stupidity of Ahriman’s scheme. He was no doubt intelligent and cunning, and ruthless when it came to getting what he wants, but really, he was something of a flat villain in that he really was little but a villain. There was very little depth to him, and even less foresight. Really, he couldn’t predict that if he unleashes the hordes of hell, he might get caught in the crossfire. Aside from a protective circle, he didn’t do much to prevent his own destruction, and his death was ultimately a bit anticlimactic.

But the research and effort that was clearly put into the plot, and the creativity in twisting bits of an established legend, made for a highly entertaining book in spite of a shallow villain. The book was full of British history, relatable protagonists, and a fascinating take on a legend that, frankly, doesn’t seem too well-known outside of the UK. The writing style was beautifully fast-paced and smooth, making it a very hard book to put down. Definitely recommended to fans of urban fantasy who want a good taste of England in their novels.

(Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)