Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Futura Orbit (13 Oct 1988)
Following Gods of the Greataway, here is the third novel in the sequence. And I'm using that term rather than series because the term series usually implies that there's some temporal progression from each work to the next. Here, there is not. The first two books were indeed about one set of characters, but they (the Triad), are mentioned only fleetingly.
What we have here is a different story. Whether it occurs before or after the other two is not said. Before, I'd guess, but given the nature of Coney's invention, it can be difficult to work out quite when stuff does happen over the millions of years of history.
So, what we have here is Arthurian mythology, a genre that is dangerously prone to being unreadable. Or it will be. Avalona, Merlin and Nyneve - no, these are not the mythological characters - have taking up the task of changing mankind to being more conducive to the eventual release of the godlike Starquin. To that end, they've decided to invent chivalry, and teach it to a Cornish village that to date has been more prone to suffering the injustices of Irish raids. But ... oh, it gets very hard to explain. There are multiple alternate worlds, which Nyneve learns to walk between. And in one of the other worlds, the inhabitants are gnomes. It's from the viewpoint of one of these (an accidental hero originally called Will) that we see most of the story, and the consequences when the world of gnomes and the world of humans merge.
Coney's writing has a hypnotic ease to it. He's built a mythos, a very strange and odd one agreed, into which he can fit other stories in such a way as they appear always to have been there. At one point, just as a throwaway sidestory with no relevance to the main tale, he has a one page 'Just So' story that explains not only why giraffes have long necks (and why okapis don't, quite), but also why giraffes don't have voices. And this joy in story telling comes through all the time. This is both clever, and fun.