Never have I read a novel infused with so much drinking of beer! I could not turn a page, it seemed, when the protagonist Duffy doesn't quaff yet another tankard of ale. The very title itself refers to the drawing of the special, dark brew of beer that is performed once every few hundred years in order to invest the agents of the west with its magical, life enhancing properties.
Punctuating the relentless beer drinking is plenty of action; Duffy is beset by antagonists at every turn trying to thwart him and the cause that he is at first not even aware of. The author seems quite at home constructing action scenes that are well described and prevent boredom ever setting in.
So, those are the things I liked about the book. What I didn't like so much is the premise; of an age old struggle between east and west, this time manifesting itself in a crucial battle for Vienna by the Turks in the fifteenth century that, if successful, could lead to the ultimate triumph of east over west. Duffy get swept up in events, not because he's particularly interested in who wins, but because he is the latest incarnation of the great western hero who has been King Arthur (among others) in a previous life. Manipulated and coaxed by Merlin into taking part in the battle for Vienna, he reluctantly goes along with it.
There is an underlying humour to it all that occasionally made me chuckle and helps glue the narrative together, moving things along quite nicely but it didn't help the fact that I was still left feeling that the plot ambled along often without much direction and going down seeminglessly pointless digressions.
I did enjoy reading this book but overall I felt it was a bit too long and should have been a tad more focused. I'll leave you with the opening quotation from Tim's fictional poet William Ashbless that pretty much sums up what this book's all about: "If but we christians have our beer, nothing's to fear."