3 out of 4 stars
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End of the Last Great Kingdom is a fantasy novel with adventure, action and overcoming impossible odds. I typically hate when people describe something as "thing A meets thing B", but really the quickest way to describe End of the Last Great Kingdom is to call it Harry Potter meets Game of Thrones. It has plenty of violence, (not-overly-descriptive) gore and implied/threatened sexual assault like Game of Thrones, but features 10-15 year olds as the main cast. Like the Harry Potter series, it also features plenty of magic and kids taking on responsibilities even trained adults would find frightening.
Leaf was a mage school student without magic. Fearing his inevitable removal, he desperately chooses the only test he has any hope of passing - trial by combat. Despite the fact that it almost definitely means death for Leaf, the idea of being removed from mage school is even worse - enlighten (those who can use magic) are considered a higher social status than everyone else, and being removed from the school would likely mean a life of hard labor or even slavery. After somehow surviving the battle his life of being bullied and looked down upon are over, and he chooses the name Brimstone as his mage name.
Brimstone isn't entirely safe: he's a mage who still can't actually use any magic himself. He's also so poor he can't afford the necessary robes and weaponry he needs to continue his schooling, let alone afford eating three meals a day. The name he's made for himself also makes him a target of bigger, tougher students who want to show off, and when The Order comes around investigating a creature that killed numerous students he's made into a scapegoat.
Victor Rose's End of the Last Great Kingdom is the first entry in The Brimstone Chronicles and it didn't disappoint. The introduction of the book set a masterful scene detailing thousands of years of history. The wars and politics were epic, but the story of Brimstone and The Order is just as crazy. A great deal happens in these 234 pages, yet I was hooked from the beginning and never felt confused. Because mages choose their names when they're officially made mages it was easy to keep characters apart - Brimstone survived an amazing fire spell, Heat is a girl who specializes in fire magic and Neutron's specialty is electrical magic. Each character has a hidden depth to them as well - Neutron has a checkered past that may explain his lack of shyness toward violence and Heat comes to Brimstone due to something that threatens to destroy her. The three make a unique team, especially since they're all in their early teens (or younger!) at the beginning of the book. Their loyalty and friendship is as legendary as the acts they perform.
Aside from a few grammatical errors scattered throughout the book, I only had two negative thoughts about the book. First, it really could've used more detail. As I said, a lot happens in this book, and if it was all given the page space it deserved this would've been 300-500 pages long. Some portions of the book were perfect as they were, but some really epic moments lacked a bit of luster and weren't as exciting as they could have been. Second, the ages of the characters just felt wrong. To think of 10-15 year olds having to deal with savagely murdering people, potentially being raped and torturing others was a bit too dark even for me. If I let my mind forget their ages it wasn't bad at all, but when I'd remember it was just a little off-putting. It's worth mentioning again, though, that the descriptiveness of the violence is never too gory and there's no actual sexual content in the book, just a few threats or mentions of it.
I really enjoyed my time with End of the Last Great Kingdom, and I'm looking very forward to book two. This one wrapped up enough bows to feel like a genuine book one ending while it left me in a perfect place to begin book two. I devoured the book, finishing it in a day and a half of reading, and didn't even want to put it down when I did. While I'd give the book 3.5 stars if I could, my official rating is 3 out of 4 stars. Anyone who loves a good fantasy novel with a fast pace will love it!
End of the Last Great Kingdom (The Brimstone Chronicles Book 1)
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