First published back in October of 2016, ‘The Disciple’ formed British author Stephen Lloyd Jones’s third full length novel, following on from his highly-acclaimed debut ‘The String Diaries’ (2013) and its sequel ‘Written In The Blood’ (2014).

DLS Synopsis:
Driving back to his ramshackle old caravan along the storm-battered road of Snowdonia’s Devil’s Kitchen, Edward Schwinn barely misses hitting the wreckage of a desecrated convoy of vehicles in the torrential rain.  In the back of one of the vehicles, Schwinn is faced with a sight that brings his whole world crashing down upon him.  Bound by the wrists and heavily pregnant, Schwinn’s dead wife, Laura, stares up at him.

Not understanding what is going on, other than his wife who had died some three years ago, is now in front of him and pleading with him for his help, Edward Schwinn feels compelled to do whatever he can for her.  It becomes obvious that she is being hunted down.  Snowdonia’s vast woodlands now teaming with life as those seeking her scour the landscape.

However, after spending the night hiding away in his dilapidated old mobile home, the woman he thought was his returned wife, changes into someone else.  The image of Laura had been an illusion to persuade him to help.  However there’s no time for him to get his head around what’s happened.  The woman – Gráinne – is about to give birth.  And what follows, will change Edward Schwinn’s life, and everyone else’s lives, forever.

This baby, if given the chance, will change the world.  But something out there, something very powerful and very ruthless, doesn’t want that to happen.

Centuries ago the child’s arrival had been prophesised within two very separate books detailing the Celtic Apocalypse.  The Black Book spoke of the arrival of a young woman born in blood who, at a time of her choosing, would commit an atrocity so far-reaching it would herald civilisation’s collapse.

When Gráinne died from the trauma of childbirth, Edward Schwinn took on the responsibility of raising this child.  A baby girl whose mother had named her Piper.  He loved the girl like she was his own.  A surrogate father, whose life would be turned around by the presence of the girl.  But as the years pass by, he sees that she’s not the same as everyone else.  She has abilities.  Powers that can reach far beyond his comprehension.

And years later, there are still those who hunt her.  Those who will stop at nothing to bring her existence to an end.  For if allowed to fulfil her purpose, this young girl will bring about a change that will transform humanity forever.  For better or for worse…

DLS Review:
What we have here is a story of epic and apocalyptic proportions.  Somewhat akin to the ‘Omen’ series, only with a far more elaborate mythos woven into its fabric – the tale reads like something Clive Barker might have dreamed up, only with the horror delivered with more of a supernatural tone than Barker would usually pull upon.

The tale is set over three distinct periods.  It begins with Edward Schwinn happening across Gráinne, and from there, his life becoming intertwined with that of the baby Piper.  From the outset, the story is awash with action and pace-churning tension.  There are many, highly-equipped and dedicated individuals who are after the girl.  They want to bring her life to an abrupt end before she can do what it is they believe she’s destined to do.

Jump forward some seven years, and we’re in the second ‘time-block’ of the novel.  Piper is now seven years old and beginning to learn she has abilities beyond normal.  But as she learns of these powers, so those that hunt her are drawn to her.  And the hunt is well and truly back on.

Jump forward another eight years, and we’re at a point where everything is falling into place.  It’s now that we begin to realise the magnitude of the events that are playing out.  Everything is gearing up for something immense.  And when I say immense, I absolutely mean it.  Prophecies pointed to this moment.  With each page, more and more plans are coming into play to see this thing through, or end it before it annihilates us all.

However, what pulls it all together and carries you, the reader, along with the story until the end are the characters.  Within a matter of a couple of pages you’ll feel emotionally invested in Edward Schwinn and his plight.  He’s one of those perfectly flawed, believable characters that makes your heart latch on to his every decision.  The hardship he’s gone through up to this point.  The bitterly sad loss of his beloved wife.  The struggle to scrape by during the early years of Piper’s life.  It all works together to pull at your heartstrings with a harsh yet warming tug.

But of course there are many other characters who take on pivotal roles within the tale.  Take Pastor Benjamin D. Pope as a prime example.  He’s an evangelist-style preacher for The Church of the Holy Sacrament.  Of course he’s somewhat of a fraud.  But he has his motives.  A backstory that keeps him human.  Shows the different shades of grey in us all.  Blurring the lines between right and wrong.  But the pastor has a new mission.  He’s gathering together his many followers to take action.  To play their part in the unfolding and escalating events.

It’s all very elaborate and wonderfully, intrinsically complex.  The backstory and mythos behind the whole plot is incredibly compelling.  As more and more of what’s lying behind it is revealed, you feel your eyes being opened to a magnificently imagined new world.  One that’s been hidden behind a purposefully erected fog.

It’s not a quick-fire read.  At a little over five-hundred pages there’s a lot of ground to cover.  But Jones does this with a keen eye for his end game.  Pacing is varied.  There’s definite spikes of adrenaline-pumping action.  Highs and lows and moments of utter despair.  It’s a novel that takes you on a journey.  And when you eventually arrive at the finale, when all the cards are out on the table and it’s time for the endgame to play out, then you truly feel like you’re there with them all.  Desperately fighting alongside those you’ve invested so much love and emotion in.

It’s a compelling read.  One that takes you to many magnificently depicted destinations and over a decade of coming to terms with what is about to take place.  Furthermore, at a handful of points in the book, it reverts back through the years to enrich the mythos with elements from our near-forgotten history.  It’s constantly weaving in new threads and layering the underlying premise until the whole tapestry of the story is rich with life and blood.

And by Lucifer’s beard does it end well.  A proper, all-encompassing grand finale that does the run up to those final handful of pages absolute justice.

All in all ‘The Disciple’ is one hell of an engaging and entertaining read.  There are so many highs and lows, so much love and loss and troubled human emotions brought to the surface.  The human element is there in abundance.  It’s broken and raw and makes the novel that that much richer for it.  Yes it’s a reasonably long read, and there may be a tad too much padding for some.  But a slimmed down version wouldn’t have as much pull.  It’s the journey, the parts between the thrilling action sequences and the numerous revelations, that keeps you drawn in.  And when it’s all over, when the final card is played, you’ll feel like you’ve run a seemingly endless mile.

The novel runs for a total of 532 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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