The Last Four Things – Paul Hoffman

Setting: Fantasy – sword and spear type adventure.

Story: Thomas Cale, a young man who is seen by many of the Redeemers (religious extremists) as the Angel of Death, is given an army and told to go out and bring about the end of the world. Thus Cale continues his bloody mark upon the planet. At the same time, his main sponsor is making a bid for the Papacy so as to seize power, and (apparently) help bring in the end of days. One of Cale’s former colleagues – ‘friends’ seems the wrong word – has become part of a big band of theives and robbers (Klephts) who have come to the attention of the Redeemers. And, in the background, the overthrown Materazzis, the fiery Laconics, the mysterious Kitty, and one or two other factions are trying to survive.

This is book two of what I fear may be a trilogy. My review of the first book is here.

Good Stuff: Lots of bloody action. The author has drastically cut down on the ‘tell, don’t show’ episodes that blighted the first book. Some of the characters, though lacking in depth, are entertaining. And there are occasional flourishes of interaction – for example at the banquet Cale attends – where, despite the cartoon elements, I was wholly immersed in the fantasy.

Not So Good Stuff: The author continues to mix in references to real earth people (King Zog, Menno Simons and Huldrych Zwingli) and places (Switzerland, the Golan Heights, and the Quantocks), a practice that just does not work with me because of a lack of context. I am sure the author was having fun when he wrote it, but I wasn’t when I read it.  If the rest of the book had grabbed my attention, I may have been less troubled.

(However, I will concede that his description of the creation and use of the forgery Protocols of the Moderators of Antagonism, made me smile, grimly.)

Also, whatever plot that exists here, is broad brush and incidental. It takes a back seat to the action, though the political shifting and backstabbing goes some way to compensate.

Looking back at both books, my current thinking is slightly more favorable to the author. Perhaps he suffered from not having a good (read ‘strong’) editor. There’s some good stuff here, but it needs polishing.

Note: I am probably going to have to get the third volume, if only to be able to say with a clear conscience that I have given the author every opportunity. He may – rightly – be celebrating my existence as a loyal reader!

Score: 6.5/10