Mark Chadbourn seems to believe the world would be better if people were more open about their feelings, had more faith, and did more psychoactive drugs of the naturally growing variety. At least that’s the philosophy constantly spouted in his modern fantasy novel World’s End, now available in the United States for the first time, ten years after its UK debut.
In World’s End, technology is dying and the age of magic is returning. With it come the Fomorii, demonic ancient evils bent on plunging humanity into a new Dark Age. Five reluctant heroes are tasked with a treasure hunt to gather magical relics needed to release the Tuatha de Danaan. These faeries and gods of Celtic myth are the only force that could stand up to the Fomorii, but their unknown agendas make them far-from-perfect saviors.
World’s End is at its best when exploring the ambiguity of myth, with every glorious wonder coming at the cost of life and civilization. Magic can cure cancer, but many more people die when power goes out at a hospital. Opening the floodgates of imagination lets in creatures of beauty and kindness—and monsters of nightmare.
The whirlwind tour of British sacred spaces pulls from Celtic myth, Arthurian legend, and Tarot symbolism, with the logic that all old tales are reflections of forgotten truth. Yet for all the complexity of Chadbourn’s world, his characters are frustratingly two-dimensional. Each one has experienced one defining tragedy, and their stories get repeated over and over as the characters open up to one another and are faced with mystical tests. Beyond that, they’re easily categorized by their coping mechanisms: the child-abuse victim who hides her feelings with sarcasm, the daughter who chose to live out her father’s dream after his untimely death, the brooding leader haunted by his girlfriend’s suicide.
While World’s End concludes with many questions unanswered, it can easily be read as a standalone novel. But for those looking for more magic—or maybe just more character development, the next two books of Chadbourn’s Age Of Misrule trilogy are set to release in the U.S. later this summer.