A Hero at the End of the World - Erin Claiborne

Sixteen year-old Ewan Mao knows one thing for certain: according to prophecy, it's his destiny to kill the evil tyrant whose dark reign has terrorized Britain. Although he's just a normal boy, deep down Ewan is confident that he has exactly what it takes to be a hero. But when Ewan's big moment comes, he freezes. His best friend, the clever and talented Oliver Abrams, defeats the villain for him, and Ewan's bright future crumbles before his eyes.

Five years later, Oliver has a job as an Unusual in the government's Serious Magical Crimes Agency, the life he and Ewan always dreamed of. But a routine investigation leads him and his partner, Sophie Stuart, to uncover a dangerous and powerful cult... one that seems to have drawn his former best friend into a plot to end the world.
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

This book is a lot of fun... even if the protagonists are less than likeable (at least until closer to the end.) This book is written in the style of fanfiction, following on the ever-popular hero-saves-the-world-at-the-last-minute plot. However, in this particular case the hero tries to hide and his best friend ends up saving the day. Don't worry, I didn't ruin anything; the previous events happen in the first few pages.
[Ewan's] heart battered against his ribs. "Are you--" Ewan asked, voice shaking. "Did he--?"
"It's okay," Oliver assured him. He gestured to a motionless lump on the floor on the other side of the enormous room--lair? Was lair the more appropriate word? Ewan didn't know the best terms to sue when dealing with evil. "I killed him."
"Oh," said Ewan. "Wait, you did what?" 
What do I love about this book? Let me tell you. Claiborne's protagonists (drumroll please!) aren't white!!! Ewan and Oliver, the protagonists (antagonists?) are also not both straight!! Yay!! Okay, now that I'm done being super excited, here's some more specifics. Ewan is asian and queer, and Oliver is black and straight. Archie and Sophie, two of the more important secondary characters, are actually pretty interesting (though Archie is a bit more two-dimensional than I'd hoped.) Ewan is intriguing, floating somewhere between good and evil, his relationship with Oliver and Archie totally complex and delightful. And Oliver is a bit of an asshole; he's not the most likeable "hero" I've ever come across.

The plot is pretty straightforward for this kind of novel, and a lot of the outcomes are predictable, if not from the beginning, at least within a few chapters of the end. The enemy is static and underdeveloped. I realize the story is supposed to be more about Oliver and Ewan, but I do appreciate it when villains can be a bit more complex, with some sort of backstory. The plot is relatively solid, though the pacing is a bit uneven throughout.

Claiborne's debut novel is a good time, not only because of the diversity quotient, but also because of the humour, wit, and allusions that are embedded throughout the book. I think fans of magic and satire will truly appreciate A Hero at the End of the World.



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