IN THE END by John Cummings


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This debut novel features various heroes in a magical world who learn that a once-defeated evil has returned.

The warrior Erianthia, formerly of the United Front military force, lives with her horse on the edge of Murkwood forest. She once helped her nation of Sealestra vanquish the Black Crucible Cult, but not before the group released a plague called the Blight, which ravaged the Eastern Lands of Eurensia. One day, an emissary from Queen Priscilla of Tearstone visits. The man tells Erianthia that the Cult has returned, this time with a Rift Stone that will help it access the dark magic of the Rusted World. The warrior agrees to investigate the Cult’s encampment at the ruins of the Golden Gate, aided of course by her sword, Galafury, which can channel energy. After infiltrating the encampment and rescuing a girl named Anna, Erianthia heads for Tearstone. But she spies a grotesque floating pyramid—the Blight Citadel—on the horizon. The warrior doesn’t realize that she’s not the only one determined to tackle the Cult head-on by invading the fortress. The Chaos Mage, Daedelus, and the Celestial, Zeliek, eventually team up to navigate the traps and battle the hideous entities guarding the Ancient One. For his novel, Cummings sculpts fantasy tropes—especially those near and dear to role-playing gamers—into a breezy, though apocalyptic, adventure. The narrative consists of three sections, each starring different casts (with occasional overlap), and the author’s love of action carves the path forward. For example, during one sequence, “Dozens of eyeballs burst like pimples, and lightning sears large chunks of flesh from the massive tentacle like a severed tree.” Erianthia’s segment possesses the most emotional nuances, as when she tells Anna: “I am but a product of luck, a chance survivor among a sea of blood.” Elsewhere, the dialogue between Daedelus and Zeliek becomes too jocular (“Thanks Captain Obvious”). While humorous, these exchanges are frequently at odds with an epic fantasy tone. The third section, presenting orphaned teen siblings Xane and Leah, is somber enough as it circles around to bring cohesion to the story and hint at a sequel.

A brisk fantasy tale heavy on action with three interlocking narrative segments.

Pub Date: Feb. 2nd, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-79523-110-7
Page count: 305pp
Publisher: Self
Program: Kirkus Indie
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