Apocalypse, rebellion, betrayal, and blood-soaked quests for personal redemption drive the plot of the final volume of the grimdark Crimson Empire trilogy (A Blade of Black Steel, 2016, etc.).
The island of Jex Toth has risen from the First Dark, and its devil-possessed council of undead sorcerers plans to purge the continent of the Star and restore the Fallen Mother, who, although worshiped by the Church of the Burnished Chain, is less a goddess and more an extremely powerful devil. Meanwhile, deposed Queen Indsorith of the Crimson Empire and her predecessor and unlikely ally, Cold Zosia, face an army of revolutionaries in the ruined city of Diadem, Gen. Ji-hyeon of the Cobalt Company is lost in the hellish landscapes of the First Dark with a newly mutated eye, and a motley group heads toward Jex Toth in search of the mercenary Maroto, who, for his part, makes some incredibly dubious and self-serving choices at first to save his life and then to salve his conscience. Will our widely scattered heroes manage to join together and stave off an apocalypse teeming with slimy monsters and floods of crawling sentient bugs? Alex Marshall is the pen name of Jesse Bullington (The Folly of the World, 2012); the relationship should’ve been obvious from the first, given both personas’ penchant for lovingly described grotesquerie and the lavish spurting of a variety of bodily fluids. There are also thrilling action set pieces, the tying off of most (but not all) loose ends, and multistage battle sequences, all building up to, well, somewhat of a fizzle. The author may intend the climax as a cynical metacommentary on how such epics usually end; or perhaps to explain how it isn’t the end that’s important, just the messy, limb-destroying journey to get there.