After the infuriating twelfth part and the disappointing thirteenth volume, “The Machdi“, my hopes and expectations for the latest part of Hohlbein’s fantasy-horror franchise “The Chronicles of the Immortals“, “Plaguemoon“, were very, very low. But I bought it anyway because I was told the storyarc of the previous book would be continued (not that it was that great of a story), with a rather cool and original premiss, and also because I’m an idiot (also, there was an elseworld story about the chronicles in between which was pretty cool, but I’ll get to that another time).
If you don’t know what the “Chronicles of the Immortals” is all about, there’s an overview, way back when I started this blog. For the rest of you, I’ll continue the story of Andrej Delany and Abu Dun. Btw, there will be spoilers.
The immortal warrior Abu Dun is dead! This time for good. Andrej Delany holds his deceased best friend in his arms, when a mysterious stranger called Hasan as Sabah (“The old man from the mountain”) approaches and offers the impossible: To bring back Abu Dun. The only thing Andrej has to do in return is assassinating the Pope, Clemens IX (which kinda sets the book in 1669, 3 years after the London burning in volume XI!) Why Hasan as Sabah, master of the Assassins, needs two immortals to kill the Pope, is never answered, also why they should kill the leader of Christianity. But anyway, Andrej agrees, and Hasan resurrects Abu Dun, with the same drug that killed him in the first place!
So the two immortals, Hasan, his assassins, his kinda-adopted daughter Ayla and his second-in-command Ali travel to Rome. Or at least try to. They arrive at the city of Jaffa, where they are suddenly attacked by zombies, who kinda take over the whole city. And even though Andrej has fought them many, many times before, he doesn’t know a single thing about them. He even gets bitten by one of the creatures, but doesn’t turn into a soulless, mindless being that wants to rip people apart (he already is 😉 ) , but adopts some dark and bloodthirsty manners.
Anyway, the group escapes on a ship called “Plaguemoon”, gets attacked by another, much more powerful ship, defeats the other ship via zombification, Abu Dun gets an iron fist, and the group lands on a small island, base of some smugglers. Here they get betrayed – again – and have to fight smugglers, Venetian pirate-hunters, and it is revealed that Hasan as Sabah is in fact the Pope himself.
Oh boy, where do I begin… The premiss, that one of the immortals actually dies (spoiler: it’s always Abu Dun, why-so-ever), is pretty cool. Sadly, it’s only here for shock value for the first few pages of the book. Abu Dun returns within 100 pages into the 530 long novel. But there is a lot of unanswered stuff going on, so you want to read more to get the answers (SPOILER: almost nothing gets answered. Oh whom am I kidding: NOTHING gets answered). There is one scene I totally like, because it may be on of the scariest and creepiest scene I’ve ever read, when Abu Dun and Andrej immediately follow one of the assassins, who got drawn into a house by a mysterious hand. The horror is overwhelming, and Hohlbein has written one of the best scene-descriptions in a long time.
What’s also positive is that there is no forced love interest in the book. But the moment you realise this, there will be one… Ayla is a rather nice character, who gets too little page-time. It’s obvious that she has something to do with the zombies, but it’s never fully declared. But the best character by far is Ali, who is a badass master-assassin. Anytime he appears, you are in for some awesomeness. He gets some really good fight scenes and some arguments with Abu Dun. He is probably the best reason to read this book. Sadly he disappears in the last quarter of the book. He is not mentioned and does not turn up.
But wait, shouldn’t your main characters be more interesting than the supporting characters? That’s not the case here. Abu Dun may be pretty good here, funny and deliberating as always. But Andrej, oh boy … Andrej Delany is probably the most useless and unable (immortal) warrior and/or character ever! He has fought various foes throughout time, even encountered zombies multiple times, even acknowledges this fact, but even so, he does not know a single thing about them. He doesn’t even kill them. Most of the zombies they fight against are killed by Ali. Seriously, the zombie-persona Andrej “adopts” is not a curse in my opinion, but makes him much more interesting. Even so, Andrej does, once again, not kill the bad guy at the end. Speaking of which…
About the ending
This book does not have a bad guy! At least not a clear one. Hasan/ Clemens 9th is an unsympathetic liar, who promises to reveal everything they have to know, but does not do anything remotely close. The smuggler-godfather may be a villain, but changes sides at the end, and there is a Venetian Captain, who does not even die.
Oh, and the book does not have an ending! It just stops with the revelation that Hasan is the Pope. Other than that there are no answers whatsoever, nothing that is remotely closed or solved. And that just pisses me off. Worse than a bad ending, is not having an ending at all. A book must not solve everything, especially when it’s has got a sequel. But it must have some closure. Something that makes it stand alone, worth having read it. “Plaguemoon” does not have anything remotely close. Which makes it worse than “The Machdi“, even though this book has got much better writing and more suspense.
I am a fan of the franchise, but I have to say it, it is time for it to finally end. This book is just a placeholder for something else to come, and even though I liked great parts of it, it has no reason to exist.