Review: The End of Time by Trudie Skies

The End of Time by Trudie Skies

Bjørn reviews The End of Time, the third book in Trudie Skies‘ Fantasy trilogy, The Cruel Gods.

Review(s) of the previous book(s): The Thirteenth Hour, The Children of Chaos

This review is posted as part of the Wyrd & Wonder Month hosted by some amazing ladies. Check out all content on TwitterInstagram, and BlueSky!

Wyrd & Wonder 2024
Artwork by Ehtisham Sajid
About the Book
Series:The Cruel Gods #3
Genre:Grimdark fantasy, steampunk fantasy
Publisher:self-published
Date of Publishing:May 1, 2024
Trigger Warnings:violence, gore, graphic sex, torture, offending all religious feelings of everyone who has any, death, genocide (the first page of the book links to a complete list)
Page count:999
Book Blurb
The End of Time by Trudie Skies

When the saints fall, the sinners rise.

Calamity has befallen the steam-powered city of Chime as the gods declare war on each other, choosing Chime’s streets as their battleground. Kayl has the means to end their reign for good and create a new world free from their whims. But recruiting an army against divine beings is no easy task, and as her allies fall one by one, Kayl is left to shoulder her burden alone.

Finally free from his own god’s shackles, Quen is bound in service to Chaos, who only wants revenge against Quen’s former master. Torn between his desire for vengeance and justice, Quen is no stranger to the gods’ cruelty and will do whatever it takes to see Kayl’s vision through—even if it destroys his soul.

To ensure a better future, Kayl and Quen must unite mortals against their makers and decide the gods’ fate before time itself comes to an end.

For the era of gods is over.

The End of Time is the third and final book in The Cruel Gods series—a gaslamp fantasy featuring magical portals, gothic cosmic deities, quaint Britishisms, and steampunk vibes. This is an adult book containing strong language and mature themes that some readers may find disturbing. For a full list of content warnings, visit Trudie Skies’s website.

Quote of the Book
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“Dare I say it? The tea is subpar. I’ve complained to my superior, and now I’m being reported to the ‘redeemer’ over the matter. I hope he can ‘redeem’ our woeful tea.” 

Song of the Book

Review

Trudie Skies, the author of The End of Time, has taken to Bluesky to express their worries about how the readers will feel about the ending.

Endings normally happen at the end.

Which is where I decided to reveal my feelings about the ending.

The Children of Chaos, the second book in The Cruel Gods series, was my favourite read of 2022. Could The End of Time improve on a masterpiece? Was I going to have TWO Trudie Skies favourite books among my all-time #1 faves?

The problem with The Children of Chaos is that it’s a book two, and because of how series work, the second book tends to sell fewer copies than the first. As I pointed out in my original review, The Thirteenth Hour has a pacing problem in the first 20% or so – fast-paced action + elaborate worldbuilding with 12 races, 12 Gods, and 12 domains = a tug-break-tug-break effect. This is the only weakness of the entire trilogy. Unfortunately, that weakness is the beginning of the first book. Which still nearly won SPFBO with the second joint highest score in the contest’s history. If you as much as liked The Thirteenth Hour, you will LOVE The Children of Chaos and you can have my firstborn if I’m lying.

The problem with The End of Time is that it’s a book three in a trilogy. (Hint for the author: four book trilogies are all the rage these days. Just ask Tim Hardie or Tammie Painter.) It needs to tie all the loose ends and fill all the plot gaps. 12 races, 12 Gods, 12 realms, three MCs, and tens of subplots mean…a lot of work. The paperback is not available yet, but I know Skies had to make the text smaller for Amazon to print a book this long. The e-book is 999 pages long. It should have been longer. Yes. A book too long/thick for Amazon to print should have been longer. It should have had at least 300 more pages and/or been split into two volumes.

This is my honest opinion. I did NOT receive a free copy from the author, and I have not been bribed, and they might actually be pissed off by me complaining about not enough pages. The author probably never found themselves noticing they’re on page 220 out of 999 and feeling alarmed at only 770 pages being left.

I wasn’t even going to read The End of Time so soon. I’m eight to-review-ASAP books behind. When the preorder duly showed up on my iPad at 0:01am (at the thirteenth hour!!!! sort of) on May 1, I decided I’d be patient. I would wait. Har. Har. I managed until dinner, got to 22% before being forced to go to bed, and May 2 has been The Official Day of Reading The End of Time in my household. Well, on my side of it. Husby did actual things and stuff, apparently. I have 1) worked out for 30 minutes, 2) eaten, 3) spent some time in bed, 4) read The End of Time

I normally go to sleep around 1:30 am. But when the feral hour came, I was at 89%. There was no way I was going to stop at 89%. Even though I knew this meant 110 pages left. I finally fell asleep at 3 am. Furious. Because the book went and ended on me.

As I mentioned, The Thirteenth Hour has a pacing problem in the first part. The Children of Chaos doesn’t – it’s just wonderfully, immensely cinematic. Why Netflixes or other Amazon Primes haven’t jumped at it yet is beyond me. The book has no soggy middle, because it’s like a visceral novel in parts, and each of those parts is a gem. The End of Time is paced like that steam cart when the law is briefly suspended. It’s a lot of book. Somehow, the characters (not just the MCs) are fully fleshed, relatable… except perhaps the Leander penises… yes, there are details… and the pacing only ever slows down for that wine-and-cards evening, and during slightly randomly placed sex scenes. Fast-paced, character-based book with 999 pages? I’ll need a while to get over that even being possible.

The queerness of The End of Time is lovely and unforced (Cosmo’s non-reactions to ‘he’ or ‘she’ are beautifully self-explanatory). Jinx, Kayl, Quen keep constantly raising the stakes, and you’d have thought the very existence of the Universe should be stakes high enough. The remaining Gods become more and more afraid, angry, and sneaky, trying to boost their egos with more and more hubris, convinced each of them is the only one who can become The Only One… but they don’t know this book is not called The Mostly Peaceful Middle of Time. Those huge clocks on the book covers are there for a reason.

There are battles, there’s blood, some of my favourite characters die horrible deaths, sometimes self-inflicted. Spoiler you have to live with: fucking Elijah comes back. I really, really didn’t need fucking Elijah to show up again and I had to keep hate-reading on – Skies knows how to keep my attention for sure – waiting for him to get what he deserves. (Does he? I have thoughts about that particular bit of the ending…) 

Quen remains Quen, except some body parts, and newfound interest in sin, including curses worse than ‘blasted’ and ‘saints.’ Kayl and Jinx, though… are… even more awesome than usual. And in this case ‘usual’ means ‘already incredibly.’

Trudie Skies possesses a rare ability to make horrible things funny enough for me to acknowledge they’re horrible without turning into a puddle of tears. I only know two other artists capable of that. Marian Keyes, my second favourite author ever, and Pedro Almodóvar.

The End of Time is dark as fuck. I’ve been avoiding grimdark for at least a year, because have you seen reality recently? With renewed energy and other parts, Quen, Kayl, and Jinx always keep it just inappropriate enough for me to deal with the atrocities, and the word is not an exaggeration. The balance is always just right, which is why I couldn’t stop reading. It was a sweet torture, like going to a concert, needing to use the bathroom, promising yourself you’ll go when the band plays some song you don’t like, and they clearly looked at your iTunes playlists to find out what sound your bladder will make when it explodes. (I’m talking about you, Garbage.) The characters’ personalities shine through the book. Except the ones which no longer… oops! Spoiler. Well, except those. And even that is morbidly fascinating.

We get to meet the Gods who didn’t get enough attention in The Children of Chaos. They don’t disappoint, if that’s the right word, in their complete, sociopathic egotism. The God of Fauna seems the least horrible, because they simply ignore their mortals, which sounds like a good thing… except other mortals sometimes get help from their Gods. The Fauna never do. As the book progresses, we get to know Dor and Corentine (Dor and Cor?) better and better – same as Quen, Kayl, and Jinx. There was a risk of Jinx turning into a cartoon. Instead, Skies went and made her more multidimensional in ways I did not foresee.

I’d like to file a complaint so rare from me that I can’t believe I’m having it: this book needed more sex scenes. And fewer ruined orgasms. So many possibilities, so few elevator rides and shopping trips, and Quen’s only got an hour, but he’s got to do so much that, that…

…oh, oh, the ending, it’s COMING!

(I’ll be here all week. Catching up with the eight books I neglected.)

The way The End of Time constantly turns the heat up makes it feel like an ever-growing build-up to the greatest climax ever. Halfway through I only knew we were not heading for the actual ending yet because I knew I had 500 pages left, and unless Skies traded the acknowledgments section for the phone book, there was going to be more. As I kept on reading, I became more and more concerned – about how many pages those acknowledgments could steal from the few (hundred) that I had left. Then the only not-very-interesting cottagecore light part happened – I would have loved it, only not in this specific book – clearly leading to the final HUGE ENDING. And it did.

Oops. Actually that wasn’t the huge ending yet. Surely now the HUGE HUGE ending will follow?

(Cue in the sound of Skies cackling in the background. A lot of time will pass before the actual HUGE HUGE HUGE ending. A lot.)

The final_final_final ending is absolutely bjørnkers. My sofa has turned into a rollercoaster with no safety belts and nobody overseeing the machinery. There was so much of everything happening that it made the previous 900+ pages boring and slow. Since Skies is also one of those “you have a favourite character? not anymore!” authors, I genuinely had no idea where it was heading. I had hopes, but most of the characters in the book had hopes until suddenly they didn’t even have souls.

Finally, I got lost, and I felt like so did the author. (Mind, it was 2:30 am.) Perhaps the final 10-15% could have done with another editing pass by someone who hasn’t worked with the text before, or an extra beta-read by someone who did not beta the book yet. Not that I know how you get a beta who magically knows what happened in the previous 85% and can calmly read 150 pages of explosions of flamethrowers spat out by napalm-drinking dragons where there are so many realities that even the protagonists don’t know which one is real. This could have been the desired effect, of course – the book-rollercoaster turning into a Space-X rocket performing a planned disassembly into the ENDING ending that Skies worried about.

(I got tired writing this paragraph.)

There is no way for me to even hint at the final ending to end all endings without spoiling it. I can see why they are concerned, though. It’s…different. In a different way than everything else has been different before. Now I get to cackle, though, because whether Skies realised or not, they have given us an open ending. This trilogy needs at least three more books from my new auto-buy author. Skies worries about having to repeat the worldbuilding from The Thirteenth Hour I don’t think it will be necessary, though. As long as the readers have enough brain cells to realise that it is possible for a series to start with book one and continue from there, we’ll work it out. This worldbuilding is just too intricate, visceral, gorgeous, scary, detailed to waste it on mere three books that don’t even total 3,000 pages together. Although with imagination this vast, Skies is probably halfway through creating a whole new universe.

So… the final question. Is The End of Time another absolute masterpiece?

No. Improving on 11/10 is, apparently, not possible. There have been too many questions to answer and too many puzzles to solve left to fit it all into 999 pages. Certain aspects of Jinx’s personality made me raise my eyebrows – not as in “this would never happen” but – “oh?” I was not at all satisfied with Elijah’s, ah, career development. I’m very pleased with the ending to end all endings, and can’t wait to see what’s next (this trilogy better have more than three books). While there is never a soggy middle, though, there are bits that become too convenient or simply too quick. As I said, The End of Time is too short.

Just like the previous two, this book poses a lot of questions way deeper than just will-they-won’t-they. Trudie Skies definitely has a lot of knowledge and understanding of religions, and let’s say that religions and Gods don’t end up looking good in this book. The, as Elijah proves, definitions of sin invented specifically by Dor are… um, let’s say displeasing to the Good Fath– Wait, this review is HOW LONG?! *stops before reaching 999 pages*

I recommend this book to everyone who appreciates wit, depth, wars, destructions of worlds, incredible worldbuilding, genocide, childhood, adulthood, tea with wrong milk, longing for family and love, betrayal mixing with loyalty in surprising proportions, regrets, joy, oral sex, descriptions of Leander penises (I don’t think I will get over this ever), not enough descriptions of naked Wolfsbane (do I really have to write fanfic for my needs to be satisfied?), diversity that puts #diversity to shame, and pure enjoyment.

Please spare a moment of silence for the so-called ‘traditional’ publishing which has to be satisfied with lesser authors when they could have Trudie Skies. (Tru, please do not accept an advance lower than high six figures. Per book.)

Our Judgement
Praise Their Name - 5 crowns

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