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Saturday, May 14, 2022

Book review: An End to Sorrow by Michael R. Fletcher (reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski & Mihir Wanchoo)

 


Book links: AmazonGoodreads

Series links: 

BLACK STONE HEART—FBC Review —Amazon 
SHE DREAMS IN BLOOD - FBC REVIEW - Amazon

ABOUT AUTHOR: Michael R. Fletcher is a science fiction and fantasy author, a grilled cheese aficionado, and a whiskey-swilling reprobate. He spends his days choreographing his forklift musical (titled "Get Forked"), and using caffeine as a substitute for sanity. Any suggestions that he is actually Dyrk Ashton in disguise are all lies.


There is no end to sorrow. There will always be one more justification, one more crime.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS (LUKASZ): An End to Sorrow took my breath away. I expected (and hoped) it would be good, but Fletcher has outdone himself. It's brilliant. 

Khraen fought demons and gods, slaughtered lords of hell, but he's not complete. After the events described in "She Dreams in Blood," he's lost everything: his wife, his friends, and his freedom. Can he get them back? Maybe. If only he could get his hands on Kantlament, a weapon that can kill worlds.

On the other hand, he might have underestimated Henka's strategic skills. So far, she's proven that she covers every angle and has factored in every possibility. Why would it be different this time?

I won't spoil it for you, but get ready for twists and turns coming at you from every angle. I love the way Fletcher analyzes the way memories and relationships shape us. He brilliantly captures the change in Khraen's voice as he reflects on his identity and the nature of identity in general. 

Fletcher concludes his Obsidian Path trilogy with more of the mayhem and chaos that readers have enjoyed in the first two books. The conclusion is deeply satisfying and grim. It provides a strong conclusion to the trilogy, but not the whole story. I can't wait to see what comes next!

A must-read. Seriously. And one of the best endings to the trilogy I've read in recent years.


OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS (MIHIR): An End To Sorrow is the end to Michael R. Fletcher’s Obsidian Path trilogy and also has a special significance in that, this is the first of his published series that he has concluded. Not a slight against the author, but a milestone to be appreciated.


Be forewarned, some parts of the review will be spoilerific for the preceding books, but I will do my best to not do so as much as I can. An End To Sorrow opens up where She Dreams In Blood left off right down to the millisecond. The author had mentioned in one of the Wizards, Warriors & Words podcast episodes as to how one of his beta readers had come up with the brilliant idea of ending SDIB where it ended and removing the last 2 chapters that were originally part of that book into AETS. When I first heard this, I was very curious as to why the author would do this.


After finishing SDIB and then reading AETS, I’m in complete agreement with that beta-reader’s feedback. It heightened the tension of SDIB’s climax and lead an incredible urgency to the start of AETS. This book begins with Khraen at his nadir, bereft of his friend, his wife and possibly any power. He has nothing going for him and has to decide whether to fade away or go back to discover more about his past. This book is over 500 pages long and none of it is remotely filler.


This story is an incredibly unique one and I do not know if anybody else than Michael R. Fletcher could have written it. Now you might be thinking that this is hyperbole on my part, but you would be wrong. This story is one of the darkest ones I have read in my life as it focusses on a dark lord who has lost his powers and his memory; he’s trying to get all of it back while trying to figure out what exactly happened. There’s also his necromancer wife who’s helping him and killing women by the dozens just to satisfy his needs. Plus Khraen has to worry about the other Khraens who might be out there. All in all, as you can see there’s a lot going on and all of it is not for the faint of heart.


Michael Fletcher really has written an incredible tale that highlights why people do the things that they do and how the most despicable folks can be charismatic and frighteningly intriguing to read about. This trilogy and story shouldn’t work but it does and it does so by breaking most fantasy fiction rules. Michael R. Fletcher swiftly jumps between a grandiose Moorcockian fantasy epic and an intensely gritty and personal first person POV story that would make Richard K. Morgan proud. He makes Khraen to be a person who is discovering all the super terrible and magically terrific things that he did. He brings a sense of wonder and disgust that is ingeniously mixed together that as a reader I had to stop and think whether to truly cheer or be reviled by Henka’s genius.


The story is filled with many twists and nods to several of his past stories as well as potential future ones (there is a noticeable pointer to The Storm Beneath The World, his new fantasy saga that Michael described as BLOOD SONG meets CHILDREN OF TIME). The pace of the story never slackens and we as the readers are constantly thrust alongside Khraen in this final stretch as he hustles, fights and does every despicable thing possible in regaining his power and his coterie back.  


As a reader, I had no complaints with this volume; AETS also overcomes the subtle deficiencies of BSH (a slightly lackluster ending) and SDIB (a slight lull in the middle of the story). The ending is absolutely unpredictable and the epilogue a stunner to say the least. I am ashamed to say that previously I wasn’t a huge MRF fan. I can no longer espouse that statement. The Obsidian Path trilogy is a unique dark fantasy trilogy that will be considered a classic similar to C.S. Friedman’s Coldfire trilogy and Mark Lawrence’s The Broken Empire trilogy. If you haven’t done so yet, grab this completed trilogy and see why so many grimdark fantasy fans are enraptured by this Canadian artiste!


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