I'm not sure whether you will name this botch a review because it contains nearly every possible mistake you can make within a review. Don't lament later. You have been forewarned.
On September 12th, 2010, I wrote
"Thanks to the great people over at Tor/Forge for sending me a copy of The Last Page (hc, 2010) [ISBN-13: 978-0765325160] by Anthony Huso. It is part of a duology which will be finished with Black Bottle. The book is on my list since I read the glowing review by Liviu over at Fantasy Book Critic. And only two days ago The Mad Hatter posted another glowing review! I'm sure that with the reviews which will follow one can easily built a "burning ring of fire". "
I read them all and they express my feelings about The Last Page. I hope you liked my remarks.
I highly, highly recommend to read The Last Page. It would be a great Christmas gift in case you like something unusual.
That's all for today.
ENJOY Reading .........
Hey, you are still reading this post? That's great! I hope I did not confuse a way too much. Of course I will share my 2 cents about The Last Page with you.
Let's start with basic information like cover, number of pages, chapters, POV, maps and so on.
The 432 pages of The Last Page are divided into 42 numbered chapters. Additionally you get a pronunciation explanation and two maps by Jon Lansberg which show The Duchy of Stonehold and Isca City.
The story is told from the POV's of the two main characters: Caliph Howl and Sena.
Now you expect a blurb or a jacket text or a summary from the reviewer. I deliver you something different. John Ottinger III, the "brain and heart" of Grasping for the Wind, interviewed John Huso on The Last Page. The first question and answer fits perfectly for the introduction to The Last Page.
"John Ottinger: First off, for those who haven’t heard or read The Last Page, what is the premise and synopsis for the tome?The Last Page has been my most challenging and most extraordinary read in 2010. I know it can't be topped in these categories by my outstanding reads.
Anthony Huso: If I could count the hours I’ve agonized over the synopsis and the many reasons that it causes me angst…
The synopsis is really quite simple though, I think. A pair of young lovers meet at college, both dreading what the future holds. Caliph Howl takes a pragmatic path, delving into politics, bureaucracy and the very tangible problems associated with civil war. His girlfriend, to put it simply, finds her way into an underworld filled with occult magic, assassins and arguably nebulous threats. I see the two characters as opposites in some respects, one grounded in the empirical and the other representing the theoretical. The book is about their relationship, how it evolves as each of them climb the rungs of power in their own spheres. In many ways, the main conflict of the book is that of “mated couple vs society”. But, having laid that synopsis out for you, if you’ve read the book, you probably understand why it makes me cringe."
Challenging? Challenging due to the difficult twist and turn? Challenging due to length? Challenging due to depth psychology characterization? No, no, it has been a much more simpler challenge: Language
You should know that English is not my first language. But I think I have a fair understanding of the English language and I don't deny that it is common for me to use dictionaries while I read. Of course I learn new words with every book I read but there are so many I still don't know. And when you read books in British English and American English like me it is nearly impossible to read without dictionaries.
Since I read The Last Page I'm in doubt about my English. I never used dictionaries that often while reading a book. The Last Page contained a lot of words I did not understand. Beside that Anthony Huso is a master in creating new words and the unusual use of adjectives.
Therefore it took me "ages" to read The Last Page because I did not want to miss any description, dialogs and so on. You may now assume that I have had a disturbing and annoying time while reading . Far from it!
I longed for understanding each word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, chapter, part, the whole book.
His prose is in depth, refreshing, extraordinary, fascinating, mesmerizing and I enjoyed every minute I spent with The Last Page.
The world appears so real even you know as a reader that it is imagination. I nearly vomited when Caliph Howl discovered the secret of the meat.
Most people like to categorize thinks. It is the same with books. Fortunately it doesn't work with The Last Page.
Anthony Huso combined lustful elements of epic fantasy, dark fantasy urban fantasy, steampunk and more ...
There is magic, guns, zeppelins, horrible beasts, gods, assassins, emperors,armies, magic books, arcane secrets and more ....
The description of the world is detailed enough when necessary and remains mysterious whenever it is necessary.
The magic is far beyond to be the kind of magic where sorcerers throw fireballs and lightnings. The so called Holomorphy is a clever mix of maths with known magic elements. In consequence this kind of magic follow strict rules. This mix is awe-inspiring and looks like an oxymoron. But Anthony Huso is far too clever and avoids the trap by the elegant unification of magic and science by interspersing wittingly nescience. let me give an example. we know that nuclear weapons exist. We know that they are terrible. But most of us do not know how a nuclear weapon works. And the fireball and the atomic mushroom appear like magic or something supernatural.
The Last Page is definitely a character driven book. From the beginning, where we meet the two main characters Caliph Howl, the heir to The Duchy of Stonehold and Sena, a secretly witch and key member of the Witchocracy. It does not take long to connect to them. Even if you don't like them - and there are parts where you will not like them, it is fascinating to follow their development. There is a real character growth until the end of the book. Sena is the more straight forward character while Caliph likes to think before he acts. Without going more into detail I can say that both are well developed characters.
During the story you will get to know more characters. You may think that some of them look like a bit stereotypical. For me they appeared as members of a royal household like counselor, manservant, spymaster, general. The good thing is they have personality - especially the spymaster ......
But there are more beings - human and non human - and no one is just plain accessory.
Inspissate The Last Page and the result would by the core of the book: The love story between Caliph Howl and Sena. We know the power of love since Shakespeare's inimitable Romeo and Juliet. Don't get me wrong. Anthony Huso did not use Romeo and Juliet as a blueprint for The Last Page. This is definitely another kind of love story which works because of the characters and the world. Caliph and Sena are neither similar nor do they follow the traditional gender role. Of course they love each other. But at the same time they follow their own objectives which sometimes is hurtful.
Caliph and Sena do not exist in a vacuum. Of course they have to cope with restraints - Caliph as the heir to the throne of The Duchy of Stonehold and Sena as a key member of the Witchocracy. They are both part - active and passive - of the ongoing intrigues, wars and long time plans.
Fortunately Anthony Huso is not godfather who judges about the action of his "sheep". That means also that is The Last Page not a simple black and white book. Instead there are people who have to cope with political and personal dilemmas which often end in the question how much evil is fine for the greater good. That means is it OK to kill 20 people in order to rescue 2000. As we all know there are no real answers to questions like this. And Anthony Huso avoids to answer this questions. He just shows possibilities and consequences.
The last page of The Last Page left me a bit confused. But I hope the second part of the duology - Black Bottle will hopefully published in 2011 - will deliver me an explanation.
With its intrigues (economical and political), steampunk elements, strong characters and strange creatures, its dark tone, a complexity which has not been revealed in all details yet and a mesmerizing use of words The Last Page is definitely one of my candidates for the debut novel of 2010.
And with an emphasized HIGHLY RECOMMENDED I will close my piteous try to review an extraordinary book with the link to Anthony Huso's website.