The Fallen Angel Lucien never expected the world to end. Inconveniently enough, it did. He and Lalael, an angel of the Higher Realm, are abandoned to make their way in what's left of the world.
It has changed, however. Uncountable humans have died or vanished, and leftover groups are determined to survive however they can, fighting off new dangers and killing anything they do not understand.
But demons were not the only thing released into the world at the End: A strange new power fills the world, and no one knows what this might bring.
I’ve been getting a lot of review requests lately for self-published books, most of which I (somewhat guiltily) decline because my experiences with indie books haven't been that great. It’s just that the few that I have read I didn’t particularly enjoy but I felt like I had to struggle through them anyway because I had committed to writing a review. And then there’s the awkwardness of dealing directly with the author of the book that I’m criticizing, rather than through the comforting barrier of agents and publishers. So all-in-all, it’s a situation I rather avoid.
But I do realize that there must be some gems out there, which is why I occasionally accept an indie book for review, when it sounds interesting enough, or when the author manages to get my attention. In the case of In the End it was a bit of both (yes, a nice, personalized email can do wonders) that got me to accept Alexandra Rowland’s review request.
In the End got off to a great start by introducing a variety of colorful characters that quickly engaged my interest. The story then proceeds with the kind of humour and wit that fans of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett would recognize and enjoy.
Now this is probably what impressed me most about the book, the way that Ms. Rowland so successfully manages to transfer humour onto the page and into her character’s personalities and dialogue. Usually when I read a fantasy book that’s meant to be funny the humour feels forced, or the author focuses so much on the humour that character development is sacrificed. So I was really impressed that the humour in In the End felt genuine and the characters were so skilfully brought to life in just a few sentences. Well...for the most part.
Unfortunately I hit a snag about half-way through the book. The story, which had seemed to have been heading purposefully in a particular direction suddenly began meandering in a new direction, after which it never really got back on track. Instead of exploring the effect of the apocalypse on those left behind, including some of those colourful characters that we had met at the beginning of the story ( and who I had really been hoping to get back to) we get treated to a montage of Lucien and Lalael learning to overcome their differences on their path to best-friendship. I could practically hear the music playing in the background during these scenes. And then all the events that follow seem to occur for the sole purpose of challenging and strengthening this friendship, while ignoring everything else that was going on, such as the end of the world.
We get told that food is running out and people are attacking each other but this is all just background noise, except for those events that help drive forward the Lucien and Lalael friendship theme. And then new characters are introduced who don’t add anything to the story but only serve to make it messier. Considering what a great job Ms. Rowland did with characterization in the beginning of the story I was surprised and disappointed at how flat and uninteresting the later characters are.
In the End has a lot going for it but it still has a way to go before it's reader-ready. It definitely needs some cutting, tightening and ironing out. An injection of some good apocalyptic world building and characterization would also help, along with more of that humour that I had so much enjoyed at the start of the story. And while I really liked the unique friendship portrayed in the book, between Lucien and Lalael, it can't be the only thing that the story is about, after we are promised so much more in the first few pages.
After a couple more drafts this could be a book that I would really enjoy but, as it is, it was became a real struggle to get through, after the first 100 pages or so.