World’s End felt throughout like a book I expected to like, and I wonder if I might’ve liked it better if I’d encountered it earlier. It’s a heroic fantasy of the magic-returns-to-the-modern-world variety. Chadbourn clearly knows a lot about the myths and legends of the British Isles, and this was what I enjoyed most in the novel — oddly, the moments when I was most conscious that a character was delivering exposition to the reader were some of the most interesting. It’s not that Chadbourn can’t write (although I did notice an over-reliance on the word “bleak” in the first few chapters). His prose is . . . “sturdy” is the word that comes to mind, not “rich,” or “evocative,” but certainly better than “serviceable.” Several of his characters have a bit more roundedness to them than those in many fantasy novels (although I found a few of them annoying, which didn’t help sell me on the novel). Chadbourn’s Britain feels very solid; I’ve been to several of the locales he describes, and it’s easy for me to credit that he has too.
I think my biggest issues with World’s End are primarily about the plot, and fall into two groups. First, characters keep making screamingly bad choices. You know the horror movies where somebody says, “hey, let’s split up so the monster can pick us off one by one”? That bad.* Second, the abilities of the antagonists didn’t seem consistent. They’re more or less invincible until the plot requires them to take a defeat, and then they’re suddenly vulnerable to a pitiful ruse. (You could argue that Chadbourn is employing a venerable tradition of underdog characters fighting mighty evils, but I would counter that the protagonists’ actions would still benefit from a little more credibility.) It’s also a druggier book than I prefer, and suffers a little from the wish-fulfillment guy-irresistible-to-women thing that bugged me so much about Stieg Larsson.
*to be fair, the villains as well as the heroes have some boneheaded moments.
needs more demons? Just not my cuppa, I’m afraid