book reviews by Althea

The Last Quarrel – Duncan Lay ***

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I have to say, I’ve got a bit of a problem with this collection of 5 ‘episodes’ of this fantasy story being called a ‘Complete Edition,’ because this is not a completed story. It ends on a huge cliffhanger, with none of the story’s various dilemmas resolved. I have to assume more episodes are on the way…

That aside, I would recommend the story to those looking for light, action-oriented ‘popcorn entertainment’ fantasy. It’s fun, I didn’t really have any complaints about it, and it moves along at a fast clip.

My thoughts on the various episodes follow:

This first ‘episode’ sets the stage for what looks to be shaping up to be a very standard but quite entertaining fantasy novel.

First, we’re introduced to Fallon. A staff-wielding local law-enforcer, he’s always hungered for the change to be a hero. However, as a middle-aged family man with a son in ill-health and a wife suffering from depression and anxiety, he seems unlikely to get his chance. However, when the Duke’s ship runs aground outside his village, mysteriously abandoned, he sees a chance to prove himself by investigating the disappearance.

Meanwhile, in the city, rumors of abductions and disappearances have led to literal witch hunts. The populace is in fear. Prince Cavan is well-meaning and good-hearted, but finds himself with little power. However, he develops a suspicion that his debaucherous brother might be behind the missing persons cases. He also resolves to investigate.

2. (possible minor spoilers for those who haven’t yet read the previous episodes follow)
<spoiler>Fallon the village Sergeant and Cavan the Crown Prince continue to investigate the mysterious disappearances that have been plaguing Gaelland.

Fallon is convinced that the culprits are men. Cavan suspects his brother. The King and the Archbishop of Aroaril seem to be convinced that it’s the work of evil witches who sacrifice to the dark god Zorva. Or possibly malevolent selkies out of folklore are to blame.

Is it possible that the heads of both religion and state are actually part of a conspiracy to manipulate events for their financial gain, and the fate of innocents be damned?

Evidence seems to be pointing that way, but we’ll have to wait for further episodes to unveil further revelations…</spoiler>

3. <spoiler>      Here, the mysterious disappearances that have been plaguing Gaelland get personal. The reader discovers a bit more of what’s actually going on, but the depths of the depravity and the extent of the betrayals are not yet fully clear…

Anxiety-ridden Bridgit gets a chance to rise to the occasion (and does, perhaps a bit too easily.)

‘Ninjas’ are spotted…

Nautical action abounds…

Swordplay, too…

Not to mention evil magic…

This is shaping up to be less ‘deep’ than I hoped, but it’s still good fun, and I haven’t had any problems with it at all.

This ‘episode’ ends on a cliffhanger, so I’ll be moving right along to the next.</spoiler>

4. <spoiler>     The story continues…

I found the Kottermani prince Kemal’s reaction to Bridgit’s defiant bravery to strain belief…

And while we’re at it, while I’ll accept that a dog might recognize a person or clothes of a different country & culture than that dog was raised with, I have my doubts about it recognizing furniture…

That said, the tale continued to be entertaining, as Fallon and Cavan work together with the aim of uncovering dastardly plots, rescuing kidnapped innocents, and hopefully, eventually, cleaning up the corruption at the heart of the kingdom.

The ‘big reveal’ at the end of this episode wasn’t a huge surprise, though…</spoiler>

5. Well, that was aggravating.

I thought this was supposed to be the ‘last’ episode in the ‘Last Quarrel’ BUT it ends on a huge cliffhanger.
I have no objection to leaving things open for sequels, but this is in another category altogether. Nothing at all is resolved.

I also decided that the book as a whole would’ve been better as a pure fantasy, without the obvious historical basis: the Ottoman Empire kidnapping slaves from the British Isles. (I read Jane Johnson’s ‘Tenth Gift’;, based on the same sort of incident, not so long ago… I didn’t love that book either, but I did like it a little better…)

I’d still recommend this series for those looking for some light fantasy ‘popcorn entertainment,’ but I’m not going to be holding my breath until the further sequels are released.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Momentum Books (Pan Macmillan) for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.


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