As always, Fletcher has a crisp, descriptive style. His writing paints a vivid picture without becoming bogged down in purple prose. An End to Sorrow is a page turner -flat out. I found myself engaged in a way I hadn’t been in quite some time. This book hooked me early and reeled me in until the final pages. The entirety of the Obsidian Path Trilogy was excellently paced. Each book had me wishing there was a little more of it by the time I finished.
Our protagonist if you can call him that, is at his essence a deeply conflicted soul. He is brutal, selfish, manipulative, and yet he is not without a moral compass. In fact, much of the narrative throughout the series revolves around his internal struggle to be a better man. Khraen is motivated by many things, a lust for power, a desire for revenge, but also love. For me though, this is one of the few spots where the novel fell short of its potential. Throughout the series, but particularly in this installment, Khraen’s narration tells us how much he loves Henka. But his actions seldom show this. I was left unconvinced. I know that part of the struggle is Khraen’s love versus his selfishness, but I didn’t feel the love. There were no sweet moments, no delight in her quirks, he just admired her capability and said I love you in grandiose terms a bunch. When it came down to it, this undermined a substantial plot thread in my estimation. I still found the read satisfying, but I felt this element could have greatly improved my investment in an important arc.
The worldbuilding continued to impress. The terrible cost of demon binding, the buried history, the strange cities rife with magic and danger. Over the course of the series, Fletcher has developed multiple intertwined magic systems that feel interesting and consistent. He has also created micro-cultures, bizarre villages and cities ruled by mad summoners and deranged necromancers. The content of the worldbuilding expertly reinforces the tone of the narrative.
An End to Sorrows delivered a satisfying conclusion to an excellent series. The premise of these books is totally unique. It takes the idea of an anti-heroes and scoffs, then sacrifices that mewling anti-hero’s soul to a demon in exchange for some trifling convenience. This novel was dark, but it never lost me. Fletcher danced along that knife edge, pushing his characters into despicable acts from which there is no redemption, but Khraen’s cognizance of his own evil somehow tipped the scales just enough to keep the story in balance. Khraen is an execrable, murderous bastard who ‘makes love’ to an undead witch who chops up innocent ladies to stay warm. And yet, the author had me rooting for him all along. How the hell did he do that?