Part 1: The Relapse into Barbarism

The first half is entirely exposition: a long, detailed, convincing but tensionless account of how England (and by extension, Britain and the world) is reclaimed by the wild, after the baleful influence of an Unknown Orb causes havoc with the Earth's tides and magnetism, sending animals feral and men running from the cities, which fall into rack and ruin. Fields are overrun by forest, domesticated animals turn wild, roads and towns becoming overgrown, and London reverts to poisonous swampland.

 

Part 2: Wild England

The story really begins many years after this unspecified catastrophe. Felix Aquila is a fey and ineffectual hero, unhappy with his privileged lot as the firstborn of Baron Aquila. The physically robust middle son, Oliver, is the favoured one, a 'man's man', at home in the field, a good hunter and fighter. Felix is a classic outsider figure, a 'reader of scrolls' at a time when books are virtually extinct and only a few scraps of parchment remain. The story is set so far in the future that almost all knowledge has been lost. No memory of the time before the cataclysm remains. Five hundred years of human history have been wiped taking us back to a time before the Renaissance, the Age of Reason and the Industrial Revolution.

Felix wishes for the hand of the fair Aurora, daughter of Baron Thyma, but he is not 'worthy' of her; and so he sets off on a quest to win renown. Things do not go to plan. The world is too big – Felix is 'drowned' by it. In his handmade canoe he circumnavigates the vast inland Lake that covers the bulk of Southern England, encountering human cruelty wherever he goes; Mother Nature may have reclaimed her throne but human nature has remained the same. Finally Felix reaches devastated London, the heart of darkness in the centre of a toxic swamp.

Felix makes the difficult journey home, bearing riches from the poisoned city and new won status as a 'King' of the Shepherds, with armies to command, public works undertaken at his bidding and a castle of his own in the offing. But the ending is inconclusive: Felix walking into the endless woods that lie between him and his beloved Aurora.