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M. F. W. Curran's previous novel, ''The Secret War'', provided the reader with a great opening into this series. Curran builds his characters very well and then puts them into a very gripping story. It was with great anticipation I jumped straight into the follow up, ''The Hoard of Mhorrer''. Whilst it contains many of the elements that made the first book so good, it is different enough to be more than just a copy of worked so well last time.
Since the events of ''The Secret War'', Captain William Saxon has continued the fight against vampyres and daemons and is now a respected leader amongst the fighting monks of Saint Sallian. The monks have slain many of the enemy, but William has also lost a number of men under his command and is hunting one particular vampire who has killed a large number of them.
In his personal life, things are also on a little bit of a rollercoaster ride. He is happy with Adriana, although struggling to cope with their adopted son Marco, who wants to follow William into battle, which he is reluctant to allow. Whilst their time together is wonderful, it is all too brief, as William once again discovers. Having only been home for a couple of days, he leaves sent on a mission to Egypt, to hunt down the Hoard of Mhorrer - a large store of Scarimadaen, which are objects used to summon daemons. The vampyres themselves are also very keen to track down the Hoard, as this would allow them to summon enough daemons to destroy the monks.
It is a difficult path, as they arrive in Egypt to discover that vampyres have murdered the one person they believed could direct them to the Hoard. The Egyptian militia also pursues them, after events result in the deaths of a number of local people. Fortunately, the monks manage to find assistance from a tribe of Bedouin, who have tangled with the Cult of Rassis, who traditionally guard the Hoard.
Once again, the characters are wonderfully drawn. The story this time is at a higher pace than before, which means there isn't quite so much scope for character development as in ''the Secret War''. However, the characters are still well drawn and the building relationship between William and Marco and, later, William and Sheik Fahd as they unite to fight a common foe are perfectly done. Marco in particular was a great character, offering the character traits you would expect from a teenager; stubbornness and a touch of hero worship for a famous relative. I also liked Peruzo, one of William's lieutenants, who acted with the confidence of someone with a lot of experience, but his fear and guilt in certain circumstances are also well presented.
In making up for the slight reduction in the character building side of things, Curran seems to write with more colour this time around. Whilst such writing may have been present before, it didn't seem quite as distinctive as it did here. Even if the actual physical descriptions of people and objects were a little hazy once more, everything seemed to have colour and you can picture the blood flying. There was one particularly colourful depiction of the sun over the desert that was so detailed, I could conjure up the image in my mind.
The pace of the story was relentless this time around. Curran seems to assume that you've read the previous book and so dispenses with the need for character introductions and the training of the monks in favour of the action. For me, who had read the previous book, this wasn't a problem and I thoroughly enjoyed the fast ride that Curran takes the reader on. A newcomer to his work may be a little less impressed, though, as they won't have the depth of feeling and concern for the characters I'd built up over the course of the first book. However, the twists of the story as plans are foiled and trusts betrayed does mean it's a good read for anyone.
The one disappointing aspect for me was that the line between good and bad wasn't quite so clearly drawn this time around. The monks' treatment of a captive vampire, Ileana, seemed out of character from before and whilst they did largely feel guilty about their actions, it did seem to bring them closer in action to the vampyres. Given that the distinction between the two sides was so well done in the first book, this was a disappointment this time around.
I did find the story itself a little more exciting than Curran's previous book, but in terms of the overall quality of the writing, is was slightly less fulfilling. However, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book and, having followed Curran to what appeared to be the end, I did enjoy the delightful little twist that suggested there was more to come. Curran's is certainly a name worth looking out for, on the evidence so far although with this book only available in hardback at the moment with a cheapest price of £8.80 in the Amazon Marketplace, borrowing this book would be smarter than a purchase.
This is a slightly amended version of a review previously published under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk