Imagine yourself walking home late one evening after a couple hours relaxing at the pub. You hear an argument close by and you make in its direction to investigate. What you end up seeing is a man being murdered by a creature so hideous it makes you vomit then completely lose consciousness. That’s exactly what happened to Jack “Church” Churchill and Ruth Gallagher in Mark Chadbourn’s World’s End. The horrific experience has been permanently etched into their subconscious and it has changed their lives forever. Together they embark on a journey to find items that could save mankind from complete destruction by sinister forces.
World’s End is quintessential contemporary dark fantasy. The story setting is a mix of modern day society and various elements from mythology. It’s quite obvious Chadbourn has done his homework, given how well he links all these mythological pieces in with modern theological and philosophical concepts. Chadbourn creates a unique, believable, and complex tapestry of myth and folklore for this world. He pulls this off extremely well and authors-to-be should take note, because it’s this kind of detail in world building that writers often miss in their stories.
The characters in World’s End are many. There are at least six main characters that all get equal time. I’m usually wary when books have too many central characters; someone usually gets left undeveloped. That is not the case in this book. Each character is given the right amount of attention to make you feel for each of them and their unique situations. They have all come from different backgrounds and have very different personalities, but they are forced to rely on each other in deep and personal ways. I grew to love and respect each character as the story progressed. I even grew to like Laura, who at the beginning of the story made me cringe each time she spoke. The character development in World’s End is some of the best I’ve read.
The plotting of the story is where World’s End falters a bit, and was the only thing that kept it from getting 5 stars. The characters find themselves in predictable situations and are often saved in predictable ways. As Stefan said in his review (below), many of the plot twists are transparent. So much time and effort was put into building an amazing world filled with strong characters, that some of the actual plot devices were left wanting.
Don’t let my quibbles about plotting stop you from reading the book, though. Complaining about predictable plotting in fantasy is like whining about there being dragons on the front cover. World’s End is brilliant in almost every other aspect of its storytelling, and I’m amazed that Mr. Chadbourn’s books don’t get as much attention as they should. I see vampire/zombie trash all the time cluttering up shelves. The Age of Misrule series blows away a large portion of bestselling fantasy available today. I look forward to reading the next installment, and only regret I didn’t read it sooner.