Throne of Darkness, the third book of a medieval/fantasy series by Douglas Nicholas, sticks to the basic outline of previous books, while deviating enough from the formula to make an interesting addition to the series.
Once again, our guides are the four travelling musicians who also possess great skills and strengths: Maeve, the Irish queen who casts spells; Nemain, her niece and protégé; Jack, the man with a ruined voice but super strength; and Hob, the young man who has grown into being a warrior. In 1215 in Northern England, the troupe travels from place to place, performing and meeting friends. On one such trip, they encounter a man who purports to be in the service of Pope Innocent.
While a Pope could never ask assistance from one such as Maeve, he sends a representative to do just that—since his foe is not an entirely human one. King John, seeking to diminish the power of the Norman lords that oppose him, has sought the help of a supernatural force of shape shifters to advance his cause. Since the church has heard of Maeve’s previous successes fighting the otherworldly, they seek her assistance in ridding the country of this evil. With the threat of being burned as a witch over her head and with promises of other rewards, Maeve agrees to help.
Having read the previous books in the series, it was quite easy to keep the world and characters straight. In many ways, this book is a road-trip sort of story—the troupe goes from place to place and with each stop the plot advances. This would be fine if it has not been the exact same structure used in the first two books. It is a bit too predictable. Also predictable is the way that rescue arrives. All three books, despite containing different malevolent forces, have rescues that play out in the same ways. It made for a less exciting climax than I would have expected.
Finally, though the focus on the novels is on Hob, I find him to be the least interesting of the four main characters. More background into Maeve and her history would be a welcome addition to the series.
I think this book works better if you read the other books in the series, but I would discourage reading them back-to-back. I hope if there is a fourth book in the series, Nicholas changes it up a bit.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina