Timy reviews Until the Last, the third book in The Last War grimdark fantasy series by Mike Shackle, published by Gollancz on July 21, 2022.
I received an eARC from the publisher on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
|Series: The Last War #3||Genre: Fantasy, Grimdark|
|Date of Publishing: July 21, 2022||Trigger Warnings: death, gore, violence|
|Page count: 784||Publisher: Gollancz|
THE TIME HAS COME.
SEKINOWARI – THE LAST WAR – HAS ARRIVED.
The breakneck conclusion to the trilogy that started with We Are the Dead. To beat the ultimate evil, sometimes the price is more than you can pay . . .
The war with the Egril has changed Tinnstra forever. A coward no more, she’ll go to any length to defeat every last one of her enemies.
Zorique has grown into her powers. It’s time for her to lead her army into Jia and spearhead the fight for her homeland.
But at what cost? The Egril emperor Raaku – the Son of Kage himself – is waiting for them. And he intends to destroy Zorique, Tinnstra and all their allies.
They will need to put everything on the line if Jia hopes to see the dawn.
“There’s nothing wrong with doubt of fear. We should question what we do. We should worry that things may go wrong. That’s how we prepare. That’s how we push ourselves to be better than we are.”
As I picked Breaking Benjamin songs for both We are the Dead and A Fool’s Hope, it was only natural to end the trilogy with yet another song from them. This time my pick fell on Until the End, because, well, this is Until the Last and it seemed rather fitting.
Reviewing a third – and last – book in a series is never easy. While I’ll try my best to make this as spoiler free as possible, it probably will contain some, especially for the previous two books, so please proceed with caution if you are new to Mike Shackle‘s The Last War series.
Until the Last is definitely one of my most anticipated Fantasy releases in 2022. Not least because there is a character in this book named after me – and yes, I’m *that* vain, #sorrynotsorry – and also because I was really curious how these characters’ story will end. Knowing Shackle’s previous books, I had no illusions about everyone having a happy ending, the question was who – if anyone – will make it to the end. My lips are sealed though, so you will have to read the book to find those answers for yourself.
As with A Fool’s Hope, Until the Last also starts right where the story got dropped off – Meigore is freed and Jia waits for its fate to be decided in Sekinowari, the Last War. Everyone’s eyes fall on Aisair where the outcome will be decided. But, Tinnstra, Zorique, Ralasis, and the others have a long way ahead of them until that one last battle and it’s not free of hardships, heartache, surprises, and hard decisions. Then again, we are talking about a Mike Shackle book here, and all of that – and much more – is to be expected. It’s my pleasure to let you know that Shackle indeed delivers in that regard. Sekinowari is fought, all the main players get their closure one way or another and all the plotlines get tucked in neatly. I believe anyone who followed the series so far will be satisfied by this last installment which shall not be missed.
I’m having trouble writing a review for this book because the characters I want to talk about the most I can’t without major spoilers, which puts me at a disadvantage because their POV chapters were also my favorite parts of the book and IT’S TOTALLY UNFAIR, OKAY?! I can’t wait for people to read Until the Last finally, so I could scream with them. Alas, I’m forced to talk about other characters instead. Most of whom are returning ones from the previous books in the trilogy. Where my favorites used to be Dren – yes, I know, I hated the little shit for a good while in We are the Dead – and Jax, in this book Ralasis stepped up to be among them. I just wish we had more of him, with his easy ways and generally goofy attitude lightening up the mood – which was sorely needed.
Then we have Tinnstra and Yas, two very different women, with their own battles and demons, two major characters in the events, and still, I never really warmed up to them. Although I admit, Tinnstra got the better character arc overall and got through some drastic changes. And while I appreciate her as a character and everything she did, and all the suffering she went through for her goals – including a not-too-healthy addiction – she never got much emotional reaction from me – except for being irritated and/or annoyed by her and her attitude -, which is a shame, but in a series with a cast as big as this, one can’t love all the characters. And others tend to get lost in the crowd.
However, I found most that were introduced to us in Until the Last quite to my liking. Wenna, for instance, was a good addition, who gave us a peek into what’s going on in the background while we mostly follow Tinnstra and co’s progress. It was also a welcome change that we got to see a bit more of the Egril side, although I’d have liked more of that and less of Tinnstra and co.
And now a bit of criticism, most of which comes down to personal tastes, so take them as you will. I found the pacing a bit uneven overall. There were times I was sitting on the edge of my seat – especially when my favorite POV chapters came up – and there were times when I felt the story was dragging. Again, this is me, as I’m not a fan of books where there is a long period of time where the characters are journeying from point A to point B. I can’t help but get bored as it tends to become a bit repetitive where they either walk, fight or sleep. While I understand why these parts were important – as they added a lot of details that later came in handy – I couldn’t help feeling time spent on these bits would have been better used elsewhere. Say, learning more about the Egril and Raaku. Who remained to be a bit too one-dimensional and other characters from that side totally outshone him in every aspect. That said, I really missed Matheon’s POV.
Maybe because of the change in my reading habits and preferences in the past couple of years (much less grimdark) – I started my journey with We Are the Dead back in early 2020 – or maybe because of my general dislike regarding some tropes or some of the current world events hitting a bit too close in similarity, Until the Last didn’t end up being my favorite book in the trilogy. However, it certainly brought a satisfactory ending to the series and will be definitely loved by those who stuck with these characters over the years.
The Last War series tells a dark tale about war and the ends people go to in order to win it. Until the Last is a more relevant grimdark fantasy novel today than Shackle or anyone could have anticipated, and it adds an extra flavor to it. It certainly makes one think about life, death, and everything in between, about the choices we make and the consequences we have to live with. And hope that in the end, fighting until the last was all worth it.