This is not exactly a review (thus the lack of the word “review” in the title). Since I didn’t actually finish the book, I can write about my impressions, but I can’t really write a review of the entire novel. I tried to decide for a while whether or not to write about it even though I didn’t complete it and decided to go ahead. When I see other people talk about books they didn’t finish, I find it useful as long as they are honest about that fact and also gave the book a chance (i.e., they didn’t read 2 pages and then give up on it – but to be clear, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a “DNF” writeup where someone had read that little).
Having read 190 out of 430 pages of my ARC of The Last Page, I feel that I did not give up on this one easily. I tried so hard to read this book – the author sent me the copy himself and seemed very nice. Plus he signed it to me personally so I wanted to at least give it a fair review. Normally I persevere with books I’m not enjoying in order to do just that, so it was with great dismay that I finally realized I should just throw in the towel. The main reason for that was that it was taking me so long to read this book that I wasn’t reading the other books on my pile. I first started it back in August, spent 2 or 3 weeks reading it and didn’t get very far. So I tried reading another book, and on occasion I went back and read part of this one. It never drew me in even after breaks, though, and I finally decided I’d spent enough time on it and needed to move on so I could get through more of the to-read pile.
With that caveat out of the way, I’ll treat this similar to a review in that I’ll provide you with the same information about the book I normally do to better help you decide if it is for you in spite of it not being for me – an excerpt, cover image, where to find it on some other sites, and links to reviews (which I think is especially important since you can read about it from the perspective of people who did actually finish it). A lot of people loved this book so there are a lot of more positive opinions to read. (Note: Ratings of an entered number out of 10 are automatically included in the below data so that’s why it says “DNF/10” instead of just “DNF” or “No Rating.”)
The Last Page, a debut fantasy novel by Anthony Huso, was released in hardcover in August and is also available as an e-book. The second half of the story is titled Black Bottle and will most likely be out this summer or fall according to an interview with the author.
Here’s the blurb since I don’t feel like I can give an accurate representation of the overall plot without completing the novel for myself:
The city of Isca is set like a dark jewel in the crown of the Duchy of Stonehold. In this sprawling landscape, the monsters one sees are nothing compared to what’s living in the city’s sewers.
Twenty-three-year-old Caliph Howl is Stonehold’s reluctant High King. Thrust onto the throne, Caliph has inherited Stonehold’s dirtiest court secrets. He also faces a brewing civil war that he is unprepared to fight. After months alone amid a swirl of gossip and political machinations, the sudden reappearance of his old lover, Sena, is a welcome bit of relief. But Sena has her own legacy to claim: she has been trained from birth by the Shradnae witchocracy—adept in espionage and the art of magical equations writ in blood—and she has been sent to spy on the High King.
Yet there are magics that demand a higher price than blood. Sena secretly plots to unlock the Cisrym Ta, an arcane text whose pages contain the power to destroy worlds. The key to opening the book lies in Caliph’s veins, forcing Sena to decide if her obsession for power is greater than her love for Caliph.
Meanwhile, a fleet of airships creeps ever closer to Isca. As the final battle in a devastating civil war looms and the last page of the Cisrym Ta waits to be read, Caliph and Sena must face the deadly consequences of their decisions. And the blood of these conflicts will stain this and other worlds forever.
This book had potential to be very interesting – dark fantasy with a bit of steampunk, a heroine involved in espionage facing a decision between gaining power and love, an imminent civil war, airships and magical equations. As I read the book, I thought it had some promise. Caliph and some of the tough decisions he faced could be compelling, and the magic system involving math was creative. However, the times it did manage to click with me were few and far between and for the most part I was, quite frankly, bored.
The pacing was mostly slow, and it seemed to be meandering without any real point. The story switched a lot between Caliph and Sena, but occasionally other characters were introduced into the mix. Perhaps it would have been different had I read to the end, but a lot of these extra scenes seemed to serve no purpose and by the time I was nearly 200 pages in it just didn’t seem like the plot was progressing. Caliph was eventually the new High King and he had to deal with people serving him who didn’t want to and learning about some dark practices in his government. Sena was a witch in search of a book who became involved with Caliph – just like the witches planned as they wanted to influence the new king. There were some power struggles among the witches and some complications with the mysterious book, but not a whole lot else seemed to be established at that point. In particular, I really didn’t care for Sena’s parts as she was not nearly as intriguing as a witch spy sounds or a particularly sympathetic character.
The writing didn’t particularly appeal to me, either. The descriptions were sometimes over the top, and the prose in general was not pretty or whimsically clever.
The Last Page had some glimmers of potential, but it didn’t have enough high points toward the halfway point for me to choose it in favor of other books on my pile. The plot seemed to wander, I didn’t care about the characters or their situations, and the writing didn’t captivate me. If any one of those three things had worked for me, I may have been able to persist to the last page, but as it was it didn’t hold my interest enough to put aside other books waiting to be read. I seem to be in the minority on this one, though, so if it sounds interesting to you check out some of the other reviews below!
My Rating: Since I didn’t read the entire book and this isn’t an official review, I’m refraining from rating it.
Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the author.