by P.C. Darkcliff
The final instalment of P.C. Darkcliff’s excellent historical fantasy trilogy* finds a penitent Rawena trying to live an unassuming life delivering bread to the leper colony housed outside of Constantinople. But her curiosity is piqued when a mysterious prisoner is brought to the abandoned palace she passes every day, and can Pandemia, the Rat-Goddess, really have just disappeared?
Celts and the Fiery Goth provides a towering and poignant ending to the triumvirate. Set five hundred years following the last episode, there is a subtle change in the temperament of this outing, which develops exponentially as we hurtle towards the climax. I also felt this book had an additional layer of polish and confidence, in both plotting and writing.
Although the framework from the other novels is in place; immediate start, rip-roaring pace, multi-perspective, wonderfully choreographed action scenes – there is a darker energy to this narrative which seeps into the characters. They all, in varying degrees, carry a sense of weary futility and creeping fatality, immortal or not.
In the earlier books many of the minor characters had bawdy, comic overtones but in Celts and Fiery Goth, the supporting cast are imbued with sober foreboding. Even Agira, the resurrected druidess, although muttering her usual epithets at Pandemia, appeared somewhat restrained and contemplative.
This air of pathos subsequently takes the final chapter to The Deathless Chronicle in a slightly different direction to previous, and I thought it worked incredibly well. This is the end, after all, and the more serious overtone strengthened, consolidated, and matured not only the main individuals, but also the crux of the story.
Rawena really does come into her own, the passage of time and events have endowed her with complete self-awareness, humility, and, to a certain extent, resignation. The reader is given flashes of her old spirit but she exudes a subdued air of knowing acceptance which again, I thought was a good move.
Celts and Fiery Goth also brings into sharper focus how profoundly alike Rawena and Pandemia actually are, and how they need each other. Consequently, their dynamic is subtly altered and balanced.
Notwithstanding, it’s clear that what got Rawena into trouble in the first and second instalments is exactly what lands her in bother this time; a desperately overwhelming longing to be loved, and despite everything, she still clings to the forlorn hope that it will happen.
However, this is not to mean that Celts and the Fiery Goth is a bleak, depressing conclusion. Far from it – it’s an absolute rollercoaster ride of entertainment through a plot that twists and turns with ingenuity and imagination.
I found the pursuit of the Engracia across the Sea of Marmara particularly thrilling. The skill with which Darkcliff writes the action scenes is not to be under-estimated. It’s dizzying in places but never slips in either continuity or credibility.
Further, as mentioned in previous reviews, the scope of the research employed in this entire series is impressive, both from a historical and geographical perspective. It’s completely immersive and care has been given to small, authentic detailing to really bring the age, landscape, and inhabitants richly to life.
Celts and the Fiery Goth is an exhilarating, accomplished, and thought-provoking finale to a really superb historical fantasy series. Highly recommended.
*Click here for my review of Celts and the Mad Goddess (The Deathless Chronicle I)
*Click here for my review of Celts and the Gladiator (The Deathless Chronicle II)