Long, narrative poem in an elevated style that celebrates heroic achievement and treats themes of historical, national, religious, or legendary significance. … (Epic conventions) include the centrality of a hero, sometimes semi-divine; an extensive, perhaps cosmic, setting; heroic battle; extended journeying; and the involvement of supernatural beings.
Ladies and gents, Watchers: The Complete Collection by William Meikle (@williemeikle) is truly an epic, a sprawling yet intimate tale of honor and duty, and vampires — lots and lots of nasty bloodsucking vampires — set in an alternate history England and Scotland of 1745. This edition collects the three books of the trilogy into one volume, which I greatly appreciated as it meant as soon as I finished one book the only delay in diving into the next was flicking the page on my Kindle.
The year 1745 may be lost to most Americans, but in England it was the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie, pretender to the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland, and the Jacobite Uprising he led — real events which provide the underpinning for the Watchers series. In Meikle’s telling the young Pretender is a vampire, the latest in a long line of bloodsuckers who claim to be Blood Kings and trace that lineage back centuries. Instead of the clans of Scotland, at the Boy King’s side in this Uprising is an army of Others — vampires — and humans whose minds have been enslaved.
After the vampire king Charles I was hunted down and captured at Edinburgh and executed in London by The Old Protector — never named, but I assume based on Oliver Cromwell (forgive me, I’m an American after all) — Scotland was left to the vampires. Standing between the Others and England is Hadrian’s Wall, fortified and guarded to the death by Officers of the Watch — the titular Watchers.
The heroes of the tale are Martin and Sean, Officers of the Watch at Milecastle, although they are assisted — or opposed, as the case may be — by an exceptional cast of characters. One night while on watch Martin and Sean see a light on the road from the north — a shock to both as neither believed any but Others lived beyond the wall. But the light belonged to a Scotsman and his injured daughter, and they have a tale to tell and a dire warning: The Boy King is on the march, the event the Watchers have trained for their entire lives yet hoped to never see.
More detail than that would spoil the fun, but what follows is a epic journey of heroism, comradery, savage and bloody battles large and small — from sieges of fortified towns to individual combat — horror and mysticism. There are twists, high points and low moments, triumph and tragedy, loss and gain; everything a reader could want and written in prose that is crisp and engaging. I was reminded time and again of a much younger me reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy, staying up late into the night to read just a bit more. It is good stuff.
I first came across Mr. Meikle by reading Berserker (my review), which I considered one of The Best I Read in 2012. I vowed then to read more of this prolific author, but like many of you my To Read List has grown at a pace far exceeding my reading rate. Again, however, I vow to delve deeper into this author’s extensive body of work. If the rest of his stories were only half as good as Watchers and Berserker — well that would make them very, very good indeed.