Until The Last by Mike Shackle
Hello fantasy book nerds!
You may have noticed a bit of an absence of late due to me having a slight holiday from reviews. Although that does not mean that I have not been reading. I mean, how could I not.
Today I want to talk to you about a very special book, Until the Last by Mike Shackle. This is the final part of the series and is my most anticipated book of the year. The book itself will be released on 21st July 2022 and is released by Gollancz.
Now there is no way that I am going to wait until July to share my thoughts with you about this book because it is just so amazing. If you haven’t read any of The Last War series, then I strongly urge you to go ahead and read it, you can usually pick up the Kindle version of both books at a reduced price at various stages of the year (and then if you are like me, you can also get the print version and the audio version – only kidding – well about you, not me, coz I do own those versions!)
As you can imagine, it is extremely hard to give a spoiler free discussion on the conclusion of a whole series, but I think that I have managed it.
In Until the Last, Mike Shackle lets loose the dogs of the last war in his climactic conclusion to the series.
The Last War, Sekinowari has begun and as the champions of the gods move into position, let battle commence!
With Until the Last, there is one goal in mind, and that is to get to Sekinowari, the last war. The apocalyptic final battle between Kage' s representative on Earth, and the four champions of the young gods. However, whilst we know which are three of the supposed chosen, the identity of the last one remains a mystery until the last.
As usual, Mike Shackle serves up a brutal war story that does not shy away from the horrors and brutality of war, and yet he maintains an air of hope throughout the book in that the Jians will rise up and overthrow their oppressors. Not only that, but the characters also all show a determination to unite their people and be steadfast in the face of cruelty.
It has to be said that this book is a bit of a chonker, weighing in at nearly eight hundred pages. However, never once did the flow of the book deviate and Mike Shackle maintains a relentless pace throughout the book, throwing scene after scene at you, sparing nothing as the book carves towards its climax. It really is amazing how fast the book moves. At no point did I feel that the story lagged, it just keeps running towards the conclusion. I must say at times, I did have to put the book down and have a little breather (usually accompanied by a quiet utterance of Jeez at various points!), because Until the Last is intense. There are no two ways about it. If you thought the other two were intense, Until the Last ramps it up tenfold.
So, one of the things that stood out for me is the chapter Invasion. The chapter individualises itself in the book due to it being stylistically very different from the rest of the book with its short, stocattoed cut scenes, flitting from character to character. It is extremely cinematic in its execution and perfectly captures the tumult and chaos of the battle as it plays out.
In terms of characters, some are more centre stage than others. Zorique, as you would guess is front and centre. As is Tinnstra, and I think that we stay with Tinnstra and the others involved in the main part of the war for a large percentage of the book, even though we do flit around to see what Yas is up to. In addition to this, we get a couple of new points of view in the form of Vallia (one of the Chosen), Ange (who was introduced back in A Fool's Hope) and the evil overlord himself – Raaku, who is everything that you expect and hope for.
Each point of view plays excellently on Mike Shackle's stage of conflict. Tinnstra can be blinded (and quite scary) in her sheer bloody mindedness to be an avenging angel, whilst Zorique brings the light and the hope. Aasgod is a little in the background of the story, as is Yas, who is in a completely separate part of the country attempting to rebuild society. It is however, Jax's story that has that touch of intrigue. Whilst his part is initially quite small, there are some unforeseen surprises in his storyline that I did not see coming.
As I mentioned before, the book is often a brutal portrayal of war, yet as with all Mike Shackle’s book there are some brilliant pieces of fantasy. All the way through the series, the books are littered with fantasy monsters, and with Until the Last, Mike Shackle throws virtually everything at us. If you thought there was an arsenal of monsters in A Fool’s Hope, this third book just pits a whole Ergil Empire worth of monsters at you. Well, it would rude not to! It is Sekinowari for goodness sake.
When you read the reviews of these books (and I will include my reviews in this as well!), the content tends to focus on the main element of the story, the war! However, there is so much depth to Mike Shackle’s books. His sense of world building and his portrayal of a world at war is astounding. The Asian culture that it is set in is vivid and as we move from background to background, I knew exactly where I was as it is portrayed in so much detail and whilst it is a country ravaged by the brutality of the events that are played out, you can also get a sense of the world prior to these climactic events. Everything around is so rich in its description. Not only that, but you can also see elements of historical significance in the pages and how it is being used to highlight the horrors of the situation. When I originally read We Are The Dead, I proclaimed it as one of my top ten fantasy series of all time and with the release of Until The Last, it has definitely gone into my top five of all-time favourites, it is just utterly brilliant. And in terms of the book itself, it is already my favourite book of the year and don’t be surprised that it will take the number one slot.
I have to say that with Until the Last, Mike Shackle defies expectations with this final book in the Last War, and all the adjectives that are going to be used such pulse pounding, heart thumping finale are all well deserved. This is fantasy at its best!