Sacrifice by Brian John, Greencroft Books, 2009,
ISBN 978-0-905559-90-2. A5 paperback, 352 pp, £7.99.
Published 1 November 2009, reprinted 2010.
Copies sold: 3,400
This novel, best described as a historical thriller, is the seventh book in the Angel Mountain series which now has a cult following all over the world. It is also the darkest tale in the series.
In the time sequence of the whole Saga, this story is set into the middle of the story recounted in Dark Angel -- in a gap of almost ten years during which Squire Owain Laugharne is missing presumed dead.
This narrative is set in Wales in the years 1808-1810, and the heroine (as in the other stories) is the passionate and very imperfect Martha Morgan. The story centres on the activities of a deeply unpleasant secret society which has a hit list, with Martha (a young widow with five children to look after) designated as their prime target.
The story is a deeply disturbing one, which explores themes including depravity, retribution, and of course sacrifice. This is a very different world from that of Jane Austen's southern England.....
Brian found this novel very difficult to write, since in some parts he had to make very careful judgments about where the boundary between pornography and acceptable graphic descriptions of violent events should be placed -- and also because there were parts which could have become sentimental and even crass without very strictly disciplined writing. Luckily, readers think that he judged things just about correctly -- and many have found this novel to be very moving indeed.
Secret Societies played an intriguing role in Regency and Victorian Wales. For example, the Society of Sea Serjeants (featured in Flying with Angels) really did exist. It originally attracted gentlemen who had Jacobite sympathies, and was at its strongest in the eighteenth century. Later on it portrayed itself as a social and sociable club for gentlemen and their families, and it held meetings and outings to the seaside which were not particularly secretive. They were even reported in the local newspapers. But it was also a “mutual support” organization which promoted the interests of the local squires through price fixing, trade deals and political pressure behind the scenes. So there was another layer of activity, and in spite of its public face there was much that went on underground, or at least behind closed doors.
The Society of Sea Serjeants was a “secret society” like the many others including the Freemasons and the depraved gang who called themselves the Mysteries of Ceridwen, as featured in Sacrifice. Naturally enough all secret societies were viewed with suspicion by non-members. It is reasonable to assume that at least some of their activities were corrupt and that they encouraged certain types of criminal activity. Whether they went so far as to hire assassins, and to systematically remove or eliminate those whom they considered to be enemies, is another matter!