Reviews | Written by Christian Bone 04/07/2019

THE SPIDER DANCE

THE SPIDER DANCE / AUTHOR: NICK SETCHFIELD / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: 16TH JULY

The War in the Dark was one of the most exciting British fantasy debuts of last year. An ingenious blend of occult horror and spy thriller, it introduced us to MI6 agent Christopher Winter as he discovered that there’s more than just assassins and enemy agents waiting in the shadows. Now, author Nick Setchfield is back with the next instalment, The Spider Dance.

While the first book focused on demonic forces summoned up from hell, the second introduces two new creatures into the mythology: vampires and succubi, who are caught in an eternal rivalry. Winter is drawn back into a world he’d rather be out of when the hearts of the “Shadowless” start appearing on the black market. It seems an undead uprising is unfolding…

Even without the supernatural flavouring, this would be a top-draw piece of spy fiction thanks to Setchfield’s gift for engaging prose - descriptive yet direct, it’s very much of the Ian Fleming tradition. The 1960s setting, from the portrayal of the grimy side of swinging London to the murky threat of the Cold War, is also expertly recreated. If it was republished with an endearingly gaudy cover, you’d easily believe this was an authentic product of the period.

But a spy novel is nothing without a great spy at its centre and, thankfully, Setchfield puts a lot of work into fleshing out Christopher Winter, alias Tobias Hart. The sequel digs deeper into the amnesiac Winter’s dark past as a black magician, with his former self bleeding into the present and making him lose his grip on his identity, like Jason Bourne crossed with Doctor Strange. We still don’t find out everything, though, as Setchfield holds back many of the answers for future books.

With this and various other plot threads left lingering, there’s no doubt more novels are on the way. The different sides to the protagonist and the endless potential of the genre-breaking premise should hopefully mean that further stories retain the quality of the first two. Check out The Spider Dance if you have ever watched a Bond film and wished for less Aston Martins and more arcane horror.