Amber Benson
& Christopher Golden,
Ghosts of Albion: Initiation
(Subterranean Press, 2005)

Ghosts of Albion was originally an animated serial adventure brought to life by the BBC and presented via the Internet (though it has since branched out to include two novels, a novella and a role-playing game). Initiation presents the scripts for the first and third stories, "Legacy" and "Embers," as well as "Illusions," a short story that takes place prior to the main action. (The second story, "Astray," was previously published by Subterranean Press as a novella.)

In "Legacy," we meet William and Tamara Swift, the grandchildren of Ludlow Swift, a well-known and well-to-do stage magician. But, as their grandfather is about to reveal, magic is, in fact, real. Not only that, but he is a mystical Protector of the soul of England -- called Albion. When he dies (which is going to be much sooner than anyone thought), this legacy will be passed to William and Tamara.

Though his grandchildren automatically pooh-pooh this ridiculous idea, assuming that the old man's gone batty, they are quickly disabused of the notion when he introduces them to one of his friends -- the ghost of Lord Byron, who was also a Protector of Albion. All hell is literally about to break loose, with the reappearance of the demon Balberith, and it is up to William and Tamara to stop him. The other ghosts of the title are Queen Bodicea and Lord Admiral Nelson, both of whom the Swifts meet in due course.

"Embers" opens with a birthday party for Lord Simon Winchell, a friend of William and Tamara's grandfather. William is sweet on Lord Simon's daughter Sophia, but things get off to a rather rocky start between her and Tamara. Their relationship goes even farther downhill when the estate is attacked by zombies from the nearby graveyard, Sophia's late mother among them. Zombies, necromancers, a quest for a mystical relic and dragons combine for a rousing tale. In addition, material that was cut from the final animated version of the story is here reintegrated.

Lastly, "Illusions" is a short story set during the Protectorship of Ludlow Swift. Ludlow had been teaching his rather unusual friend Nigel Townsend magic until a young woman -- Ludlow's ward -- came between them. Told from Nigel's point of view, it's a poignant insight into a character whom we have previously seen only as rather cavalier.

Amber Benson and Christopher Golden are a talented writing team, and bring Victorian demons -- as well as Protectors of Albion -- to vivid life. Interior illustrations (alas, not included in the advance proof received) are by Tom Canty. This is a book not to be missed, both for Ghosts of Albion fans and those who, like me, are new to the series.

by Laurie Thayer
24 March 2007

[ visit the BBC Ghosts of Albion website ]

[ visit Benson & Golden's GoA website ]

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