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A Hero at the End of the World

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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.

A deftly plotted, hysterically funny take on Chosen One narratives, A Hero at the End of the World expertly walks the fine line between satire and sincerity. Its sensitive depiction of a broken friendship and wry take-down of unfairly great expectations will appeal to all readers of modern fantasy.

308 pages, ebook

First published November 10, 2014

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About the author

Erin Claiborne

3 books42 followers
Reader, writer, general fangirl.

I grew up in the US but moved away as a young adult. Britain's been my home since 2010. In between, I also lived in Canada and South Korea. I have curly hair, a Masters in Medieval History, and a cat called Violet. Right now I'm very interested in the lives of superheroes.

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5 stars
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400 (32%)
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435 (34%)
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172 (13%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 256 reviews
Profile Image for Lauren James.
Author 16 books1,418 followers
July 15, 2017
Imagine that at the last minute, Ron killed Voldemort instead of Harry. Imagine Ron went onto huge fame and success as a celebrity/auror, and a bitter Harry started working in a coffee shop. Imagine Draco comes along and talks Harry into joining the Death Eaters, and they fall in love and spend a lot of time giving each other 'soulmate gazes' along the way.

If that sounds like the best fanfiction ever, then it's no surprise. This is the first book from a new press which publishes original novels by popular fanfiction writers. And it's one of my new favourite things.

The story and characters are all totally original (and incredible), but there are callbacks and references to popular fan culture throughout which bring the story to life. Azkaban becomes Mount Unpleasant (amazing), the characters have degrees in things like Equestrian psychology, there are references to the Freezing Cold War, and it just bursts with life.

This book has so much charm and character I was beaming the whole time I was reading it.

To top of this joy of joys of pastiche storytelling, the characters are some of the best I've read in a long time. They jump off the page, and I ship them so hard, guys. So hard. I was desperate for them to kiss.

Read this book when it comes out, if you are a fan of magic or Harry Potter or amazing characters and worldbuilding. Read it asap. I am going to buy a print copy of this as soon as is possible so I can read it again.

Profile Image for James.
50 reviews11 followers
January 12, 2015

I tried really hard to like this book, because I thought it was only fair to give it a shot- not least of all because I really want to try and support "indie" authors.

Unfortunately, I think it fails fundamentally on almost every level. It's not that it's the worst book I've ever read, far from it; it's just that it has not one thing which stands out as interesting to me. When it's not failing, it's being aggressively mediocre. And it's a real shame.

But before I got in on it, let's talk about the few things I at least thought were decent. There's some genuine good ideas about urban fantasy worldbuilding here. The meshing of the magical with real life elements was honestly refreshing. There were brief moments I found the characters very solidly grounded in real-life contexts as well; there's a bit where one of the leads, Oliver, thinks about being a working class boy in an upper middle class area, and it was pretty deftly done. You don't often see stuff like that in YA, and I stuck an extra half star on for those moments.

In general, this is a book that makes a real effort to show a London like the one that actually exists, too. As someone who semi-frequently passes through London this is a far more accurate picture than, say, 99% of the TV I've seen there. In short: it is not all grizzly white dudes. Nobody is horribly stereotyped. I'll take my hat off to the author for this, because it's genuinely something I am 100% enthused to see in YA.

Now, onto why it gets such a low score.

First off, pacing and structure of the plot and character arcs. Honestly, the pacing threw me off right from the start. Despite being a 100% linear narrative, more or less- which is a fine choice for a YA novel- it jumps and starts all over the place. Rather than build up tension and then release it, or gradually build speed until you reach the climax, or simply write a slow book, you'll spend two or three chapters speeding through things that don't need to be sped through and then hit a wall of slow exposition. And the exposition is pretty painful at times, not so much because it tells rather than shows but because it's timed at such inopportune moments, unnecessarily prolonging already slow moments but never being used to give the reader a break from the action. This book needs another couple edits, I think.

The character arcs are almost non-existent- there's a halfway-climactic scene for the two leads towards the end, but it doesn't feel earned at all, and the change it makes in how they actually act is negligible. This would be fine, but the plot is so thin that it pretty much has to be able to stand as a character piece. Which it doesn't.

The characters here are heavily unlikeable, but unpopular opinion alert: that, in itself, is fine. I relish a well done cast of unlikeable, distinct people. But here it doesn't serve the narrative in a real, meaningful way, and frankly the cast therefore comes across to me as fairly insipid rather than engaging. At the end, a friendship is restored, a couple people have partners, and everyone's still kind of a dick because the plot requires them to react to immediate circumstances rather than deeper things.

The prose is OK, but kind of grating at times. Bleh.

The romances largely just exist because they do. Oliver and Sophie is OK as a b-plot, but Archie and Ewan, sadly, have really very few meaningful interactions.

This review has gotten so long because I wanted to have a buildup to something I'm kind of worried will come across the wrong way, given the author's history as a writer. Please hear me out: this reads like fanfic, not because fanfic is bad, but because it carries certain assumptions that work well in pre-existing narratives and not in new, original ones.

See, this is a take on Harry Potter (that prefers to present itself, and market itself, as a take on modern fantasy period). It's obvious. We all know this is 'what if Ron took the hero mantle from Harry and maybe there was somewhat different Ron/Hermione and Harry/Draco involved'. And it fails as a standalone novel because it assumes pre-existing investment in the characters as a result. See, if this is fanfic, it doesn't NEED those character arcs to the same extent. We are already invested in these characters; why waste time elaborating? But this isn't fanfic, and you cannot guarantee your audience's familiarity with that canon. If it were a more direct and obvious take on HP, they'd probably get away with it. But it tries too hard for serious drama and presents itself too vaguely for that, and trying to take the middle path does nothing for this novel.

Ultimately just... incredibly disappointing and a really bizarre read. Check it out if you really want an alternative take on HP, I guess. Maybe.
Profile Image for Rachel.
1,282 reviews93 followers
December 10, 2014
I can't recall the last time I was so disappointed in a book. The anticipation was intense - a fandom dweller not only declining to hide her roots, but writing something actively, well, fandomy! It boded so well. The cover was gorgeous. The excerpt was witty. It all seemed golden.

The disappointment started with actually procuring the book. I waited for the release date with an impatience previously reserved for HP itself, and/or new Terry Pratchetts and Georgia Nicholsen books. When it arrived, lo! The Big Bang Press refused to sell me the ebook in my geographic location, despite purporting to be a partially UK-based company. With reluctance - because I know Amazon shortchanges indie sellers - I went to the behemoth itself and what did I find? It wasn't available there either! For the next four or five days I refreshed the page morning and evening, hoping that the link promised by BBP's tumblr would appear. Maybe it has by now, but I caved and bought the paper version, which took about two weeks to arrive - much slower than the usual Amazon efficiency. I mention this not to sound carping but to demonstrate the level of anticipation I had going on. I wanted that book RIGHT NOW, and I was less than impressed that they didn't have their shit together for publication date outside the US.

Unfortunately, even if I'd got it when I wanted it, I would remain underwhelmed. This is fanfiction, no two ways about it. It's fanfiction in the sense of many vital story elements having been subtracted or implied, because the focus in fanfiction is character interaction, not plot and world-building. Who was Duff Slan? Why do I give a shit about him or his defeat? What did he even do that was so very bad? And why is his name so stupid? Answers to these would have given some impetus to the narrative of why Ewan Mao's failure to defeat Duff Slan (is this super stealth Simpson's advertising or what) was worth me caring about.
Profile Image for Mir.
4,781 reviews4,987 followers
January 3, 2021
There were points when I thought this might rate as high as 4 stars. There were also points when I thought I wouldn't finish it, including with less than a hundred pages to go, because I was weary of spending with these stupid, self-absorbed, sad-sack characters.

I'm not a reader who has to like the protagonist, but one can write interesting-to-dislike characters. This was the equivalent of the guy who corners you at a party to tell you for hours about how no one appreciates him at work and he was wrongfully passed over promotion, blah blah.

Ewan, the soi-disant Chosen One, is a dumb, cowardly, self-pitying loser who is no good at anything (partially because he doesn't try) and doesn't think about anyone but himself, with the exception of some obsessive resentment of his former best friend, Oliver, who blames for stealing his chance at fame.

Oliver is a smug, stupid, self-congratulatory git who is only successful because he did this one thing once (and is handsome). He's shite at his job, never listens to anyone, and talks over his smarter law enforcement partner, Sophie, who is the closest thing to a decent person here, although that may just be that we spend less time with her.

Archie is a rich snob mama's boy who is rude to everyone "lesser" and has no moral qualms about befriending people and setting them up to be killed. I was legit surprised that wasn't actually a villain, but apparently stupidity can substitute for villainy if one stupids hard enough.

Romance: I'm fine with romantic subplots, but these were totally implausible to me. None of these people seemed emotionally capable of love, nor were they lovable. And none of them were ever pleasant to each other. Other than Oliver and Archie being descriped as attractive none of them had any appeal.

Redemption: I'm a fan of redemption, but this felt totally unearned. They all just sort of stopped being assholes. Allegedly. Because... they didn't want to die? I don't know. Even the villain, that felt extremely fake.

To end on a positive note: The writing was not bad. There were a number of funny lines. I liked several of the ideas. I would even hypothetically try this author again, if the book were vetted by multiple friends.
Profile Image for Shaun Hutchinson.
Author 18 books4,570 followers
December 3, 2014
What a weird little book. It asks the question: what if the hero's best friend ended up saving the day instead of the hero. And then take a look at what happens five years later. Imagine if Ron (or Neville) had defeated Voldemort at the last minute instead of Harry. It's sort of like that. Also, what would have happened if Harry had fallen in love with Malfoy? It's sort of like that too. It's pretty much a thinly disguised HP fanfic. And yet, it's still kind of awesome.
Profile Image for Alice Oseman.
Author 46 books65.7k followers
October 6, 2014
I don't even know what to say except that this is a masterclass in how to get people to ship your characters. By ship, I mean scream at the book for them to kiss. Repeatedly. Also, it's absolutely hilarious.
Profile Image for Jenne.
1,086 reviews656 followers
August 20, 2017
Weird and funny and cute and a little awkward, like the sort of boy you might have a crush on junior year.
Profile Image for Martha Mitchell.
Author 3 books5 followers
October 5, 2014
Claiborne has certainly created a fun romp and some delightful characters here, (particular props to the Gardener Hobbeses and a cake shop called "Gluten for Punishment"). However, the world-building fell a somewhat flat. I never got a grasp on how the magic was meant to work, nor why they were all using old PCs in elite government offices, particularly as the book seemed to be set in essentially a magical counterpart of today's London. I understand that this was meant to be a satire, but it never quite felt like one to me. No new tropes seemed skewered, nor was any twist particularly surprising, but the story rolled along at a fun pace and made for quick, enjoyable reading.

I'm interested to read more work from Ms. Claiborne, as I loved the relationships she built between her protagonists - friendship and romance both - and her deft hand with her villain, but the prose is quite blunt and the surrounding world did not seem fully thought-through. I'd encourage her to give her characters a bigger, stronger world - they could fill it wonderfully!
Profile Image for Carly.
502 reviews10 followers
October 30, 2014
I've wavered over giving this book two or three stars. There was nothing overwhelmingly wrong with it. But there was nothing I found particularly compelling either. Also, it was hard to care about the potential end of the world when all of the characters were unlikable dicks.
Profile Image for Farnoush Mellark.
127 reviews32 followers
January 27, 2018
so, this review of a goodreads user was one of the main reasons I started this book:
"Imagine that at the last minute, Ron killed Voldemort instead of Harry. Imagine Ron went onto huge fame and success as a celebrity/auror, and a bitter Harry started working in a coffee shop. Imagine Draco comes along and talks Harry into joining the Death Eaters, and they fall in love and spend a lot of time giving each other 'soulmate gazes' along the way. "

but sadly this book was just a fanfiction and nothing more. it wasn't even a good one!
I mean, I loved the characters and their relationship. I loved the idea of a sidekick become the hero, and I always was a drarry shipper! so I enjoyed those things.
but the plot and the story wasn't good at all. the villain didn't have a proper plan. she didn't have any proper evil plan and everything just depended on what other characters do. third part of the book was really boring and stupid. there were so many parallel universes that really reminded me of changing TV channels so fast, or that time traveling bullshit thing in Cursed Child (still this one was a better fanfiction)!
Profile Image for Rory.
27 reviews
December 25, 2014
So basically, it's a book about 3 idiots and a not-so-idiotic sidekick (that's Sophie) saving the universe(s) from a crazy manipulative villain.
and it goes like:

Oliver: I'm the almighty Hero, you dare question me?
Ewan: Yes. No. You don't say?
Archie: I'm much smarter (and better looking) than Oliver. and my mum's a sneaky meanie. but I'm rich too.
meanwhile ..
Louise: I'm so pretty.. I'm so pretty and witty and briiiight.. I'll murder all.. I'll murder all and conquer the wooooorld..

But I loved this book, all crazy and fun, and it's on to be an all-time favorite of mine. ^_^

PS. I wasn't going to review but then I got pestered persuaded..
Profile Image for Crouck.
69 reviews3 followers
Want to read
November 7, 2014
Without knowing anything else the book and the author (aside from being a fanfic author), the summary immediately screamed HARRY POTTER to me. So when I google that--lo and behold, many others thought the same thing, especially after reading it.

I don't have an opinion on Big Bang, but I find it odd that their mission statement was something along the lines of 'fanfic authors can be original authors too!' ...and then the first thing they publish is basically laundered Harry Potter AU. I could tell from the summary.

I mean...
Profile Image for Anastasia.
93 reviews52 followers
November 12, 2014
Imagine if Ron or Neville killed Voldemort and Harry faded into obscurity. Pathetic, alone and working at a coffee shop. You would have Ewan Mao, who was prophesied to kill the evil Duff Slan, but instead his best friend Oliver Abrams beats him to it.

Claiborne brings us into a magical universe straight away,no explanations, just drops us right in. Maybe it was just me but I found the first few chapters confusing because I was so unfamiliar with the world she had created. But once I got the hang of it and started getting invested in the characters I settled in comfortably.

This book doesn't play around with representation. No token pocs or queer characters. They are the meat of the story, but not the reason for it. There are strong smart women who aren't just there to generate man pain. The characters are flawed in realistic ways and the writing doesn't flinch away from our supposed heroes not being perfect. They are fully fleshed out actual people trying to deal with their world.

There are romantic relationships that develop in the story, but for me the really important relationship is Oliver and Ewan's friendship. The relationship that understandably got damaged thanks to the slaying of Duff Slan. It drove almost all the actions in the story, good or bad. Will they ever communicate enough to get pass all their anger? That's what I needed to know.

I'm not sure what to categorize it, it walks a thin line between fantasy and satire of fantasy. It's funny and a quick, easy read. I highly recommend it and look forward to her next book and the next offering from BBP.

Profile Image for Kay.
356 reviews33 followers
October 21, 2018
A Hero at the End of the World doesn't do the work it needs to do to read like a novel and not fanfiction. The characters are not only unlikeable, which is hardly a requirement for my tastes, but they're uninteresting. Ewan and Oliver are both entitled in the dullest ways, and while their lost friendship should feel like a tragedy, I never quite understood why they liked each other in the first place.

When I say that Claiborne's writing reads like fic, I don't mean that Ewan reads as a Harry Potter expy, or that the work is heavily inspired by Rowling's work in general. What I mean is that Claiborne assumes we're invested in her characters from the outset, and fails to build any investment as the story goes on. The world, too, feels slapdash--enough things are tweaked to make it feel different from Rowling's wizarding world, but it doesn't fall together sensically.

Furthermore, the story suffers from being too wacky to be serious, but too earnest and shapeless to read as satire. There's no character work, really, and no character arcs, and while the last third of the book was entertaining, I had to suffer profoundly to even get to that point. The best thing I can say for A Hero at the End of the World is that it didn't take very long to read.
Profile Image for Laura.
17 reviews9 followers
April 16, 2015
Hero At The End of the World isn't a bad book. It's amusing, and if you're in fandom at all, it'll probably delight you. It's a fun premise with the sidekick saving the day and the hero falling into bitter obscurity, and their explosive reunion years later. However, for all that the characters are likable and the dialogue snappy, it falls a little flat, the ending more so than anything. It felt rushed, almost, and the silliness kicked up like three notches for the last few chapters. More distracting, though, is that it became impossible as you read to separate the book from the realm of fandom. I can understand a nod here or there to fandom given the nature of BigBangPress and I don't want to say "It felt like I was reading a fanfic" because, believe me, I have read fanfics that make you want to get tattoos they were so pivotal, but at times it was like reading a fanfic. Or a tumblr text post.

Not a bad first book, all in all, and I think there's definitely a need for more queer characters - especially queer main characters of color! - in literature. I just wish there was less internet humor and more depth to the world and characters.
Profile Image for Ale.
205 reviews2 followers
November 14, 2014
I wanted to love this book, I really did. It just seemed like everything I wanted in a neat little package, but nope, didn't work out that way. While I really liked the dry, sarcastic tone of the book, and it was genuinely funny at a lot of moments, the characters rather ruined it for me.

Ewan was so stupid you kinda wonder how he's managed to stay alive, and you do expect a modicum of intelligence in a protagonist. It got to the point where every single thing he did was stupid as hell, and you just wanted to hit him over the head. I know it was meant to go around character tropes in fantasy, but there's a line.

In any case, the worldbuilding was lovely, the use of magic was inventive, and there WAS a magic universe-destroying disco ball of evil, so it's not like I can complain much. As a light, nice read, it's pretty enjoyable. Just don't hope for Harry Potter levels of crazy investment in the book.

Oh and also - they got such a good artist, and then this cover happened, which offends every single one of my graphic design sensibilities. It's not a children's book, it shouldn't look like so.
37 reviews1 follower
February 21, 2015
Reviewing this book is going to be a bit heartbreaking because I wanted to like it so much. It has everything I should have loved, urban fantasy, parody, characters diversity... Also I've read and loved the author's fannish work, so I was pretty sure I would love this book.

The second star is all about the world-building, or the part I actually saw because I did not finish it. At the 70th page mark, I was still fighting to get interested in the story, so I finally gave up.

As I said, the world was interesting, the magic system intriguing and well-thought.
The problem for me are the characters - I think the author wanted so much to make them flawed that she forgot to make them a tiny bit loveable also. Or at least, to reveal their loveable bits soon enough.
After 8 chapters, I couldn't see Ewan as anything else than whiny, I didn't connect with Oliver at all. There was no emotional hook about their friendship, so no incentive to see it repaired. I just didn't care.

The parody bits lacked a bit of subtlety, and in the end it didn't even make me smile.

So, a big disappointment - but I think I'm even more disappointed at having been disappointed :(
Profile Image for Serith.
263 reviews10 followers
February 5, 2016
I feel like I just paid money for a fanfic. ...Which I essentially did.

This book makes a decent attempt to twist the Harry Potter world to their own, but it just wasn't enough. My mind could translate each character name, it was that much of a mirror. I needed to be fooled - like how no one could see Bella and Edward in Fifty Shades. The splash of multiculturalism was a welcome touch ...But that's about it. Harry was kind of a wet blanket in this version. Also a coward. And jealous. And fame-driven. Okay, so maybe Ewan wasn't that much like Harry at all. I almost would have preferred that he was? I don't know what I want anymore. Reviewing is confusing tonight.

I skimmed. A lot. It hit a point where it rambled so long that I just cut to the dialogue and I literally missed nothing.

The thing that made this worthwhile are those fricken amazing illustrations. It was thanks to them I decided to go for the printed version. I wanted that lovely book on my shelf. ...Sooooo it can sit there and be eye candy.
Profile Image for Becca C.
237 reviews8 followers
January 2, 2015
So yeah, it was funny, but also... enh.

I don't regret buying the book--I'm always here for fandom authors putting their original works out into the world!-- but at the same time, after I'd finished reading, I couldn't help but feel like I would have "gotten my money's worth" if the book's price point had been closer to $4, or $5. $10 is a bit of a stretch for a book that skates along on a paper-thin premise, never actually goes anywhere, never truly cashes in on the epic redemptive arc that was set up in the introduction, earns approximately zero percent of the relationship development, suffers from at least a dozen plot tangles, and just generally feels like it was written in, maximum, a couple months. Hate to be harsh, but I call 'em like I see 'em.

Still, I totally wish Claiborne and bigbangpress all the best for the future! Yay independent publishing!
Profile Image for george ☽.
310 reviews189 followers
March 22, 2017
2.5 stars

this is a pretty clear case of 'it's me not you', because there were some things i definitely enjoyed about this book, but regardless, it just wasn't for me.

i can appreciate the intent and i think it was a fun trope-reversal, but it never quite managed to grab my attention. also, although i found some of the jokes funny, it wasn't really my type of humour so i couldn't connect to the story very well.

all of the characters were unlikeable (except for maybe archie, who was probably my favourite) but i didn't mind that so much, because they were never intolerable, and it was kind of a nice change to have some very obviously flawed characters.

i think for me, it just felt a little 'meh'. the romances were cute and the writing was good but it didn't touch me in any way, and after finishing, i moved straight onto the next book. oh well.
Profile Image for Yvonne.
13 reviews9 followers
October 3, 2014
I'm going to write up a proper review when I get time but here's the gist of it: this book is lovely. So much fun, super easy to read, great for all ages but especially boys 12 and up. It's a little clunky to start but once it gets into full swing it's throughly entertaining. A hilarious and insightful look at the ever present "chosen one" narrative. The last third is FAB! I couldn't put it down. The only reason I'm giving it four instead of five stars is that there are not enough girls. I always get a little bored with male protags (they whine too much).

But I definitely recommend picking up a copy - particularly if you were ever part of the Harry Potter fandom because I think you'll enjoy this one.
4 reviews1 follower
October 18, 2014
I really, really enjoyed this book. It's sweet, funny, and plotty, and none of the protagonists are straight white men!

The book features an engaging mystery, two romantic subplots that add to instead of detracting from said engaging mystery, all set in a world that feels bit like a cross between Terry Pratchett and Harry Potter when you start, but by the time you finish crystallizes into a place all its own.

Also, the illustrations are freaking beautiful. (That's right, I said illustrations! Not only do you get the gorgeous cover art, you also get many gorgeous pictures on the inside as well!)

All in all, if you're looking for a fun read, I highly recommend picking up A Hero at the End of the World.
February 18, 2019
[This is an old review I'm just now adding to GR.]

I learned about this one via KizunaYueMichaelis' review of it. Although the review basically boiled down to “meh,” I loved Jade Liebes' cover art, so I decided to give the book a shot.

Imagine a world where prophecy states that a specific boy would be the one to defeat a tyrant. That boy spends years thinking that it's his destiny to be a hero, and everyone around him goes easy on him because, well, he's the prophesied hero. Then the time comes for him to carry out his destiny...and he chickens out, delays the final battle, and his handsome and smart best friend kills the tyrant instead. This is Ewan Mao's story.

Fast forward five years, and Ewan has a dead-end job at a crappy coffee shop while Oliver Abrams, his former best friend, is a rising star at the Home Office's Serious Magical Crimes Agency (SMCA). When Ewan is approached by Archibald Gardener Hobbes (aka Archie) about an alternative magical system that's supposed to be able to change lives, he is, at first, annoyed and desperate to be left alone. When he eventually caves, he's told that he can be everything he ever hoped he could be. The only catch is, he has to convince Oliver to kill someone first. Which sounds suspiciously evil. But if the person Ewan convinces Oliver to kill is evil, then that would make Ewan a hero, right?

The framework of this world is going to feel familiar to anyone who knows a little about the Harry Potter series. Duff Slan was Voldemort, Ewan had Harry Potter's “chosen one” role, and the agents of the SMCA were basically Aurors. However, Ewan and Oliver's world didn't have non-magical “Muggles” and wizards - as far as I could tell, everyone was magical, although the type of magic people used varied.

Alapomancers like Oliver and Ewan drew their magic from totems. If their totems were drained dry or taken away from them, they were helpless. Dréags, like Oliver's partner Sophie, drew their magic from their own bodies. While they didn't have to worry about being separated from their source of magic, their lifespans were shorter. The appeal of Zaubernegativum, the alternative magical system Archie and his mother dangled in front of Ewan's nose, was that magic could be drawn from anything, and there was no limit to how much could be gathered and used. The magical systems in this book didn't really interest me all that much, although I was curious about whether Zaubernegativum actually worked and whether it would destroy the world. Nearly everyone but Archie and his mother seemed to think it was nothing more than a crazy theory.

This book's biggest appeal, for me, was its humor. Ewan had a gift for making terrible decisions, and almost all of the characters lacked the ability to see the things that were right in front of their noses. There were loads of funny moments: Oliver's unquestioning acceptance of his superiors referring to themselves as “Shadowy Figures,” Ewan discovering to his dismay that making coffee was always his destiny, the incredibly obvious romantic relationships (both m/f and m/m) that kept coming as a complete surprise to everyone, and more.

Unfortunately, one big thing kept me from fully enjoying the story: I disliked almost all of the characters. Ewan was a lazy, cowardly, whining man-child who allowed one moment to define his entire life. Oliver was full of himself. Archie was annoying and had difficulty thinking for himself. Sophie was pretty much the only one I liked. She wasn't afraid to let Oliver know when he was acting like a jerk.

While the characters all recognized their mistakes and apologized for the things they'd done wrong by the end of the book, for the most part it felt like too little, too late. I was okay with Oliver, especially because I figured Sophie would be happy to deflate his ego whenever necessary, but I never managed to get past the horrible stuff Ewan and Archie either did or chose to ignore.

All in all, this was good for a few laughs, and I liked how Claiborne messed with the stereotypical “chosen one” story.


There are black-and-white illustrations throughout the book.

(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)
Profile Image for C..
240 reviews14 followers
June 23, 2017
This is, for obvious reasons, like reading very good Harry Potter fanfic. An enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Tom.
1 review
October 4, 2014
First and foremost, this is a very funny book. It is also an engrossing adventure and offers up an interesting and unusual alternate world. ‘A Hero at the End of the World’ manages some very silly pieces of humour and some subtle and not-so-subtle digs at modern tropes without ever sacrificing its characters or plot, and this combination really helps the book to race along.

If the basic premise makes you wary, be aware this is *not* a parody book. Sure, there used to be an evil wizard (by the name of Duff Slan), and Ewan and Oliver attended a magical school where Ewan was mentored by a wise headmaster (at least until it turned out he wasn’t the chosen one after all), but this old ground doesn’t get retread. What we have here is a satire, an intelligent book which asks interesting questions. What does it really mean to send 17 year olds to murder your enemies for you, and what does it do to them in later life to always be ‘the hero’ or ‘the sidekick’? Is it not just a tiny bit sinister to have a ‘ministry’ with ultimate power and no elected officials?

But ‘A Hero at the End of the World’ is not a satire of one bestselling book phenomenon; it takes aim at today’s popular culture. It knows how things are ‘meant’ to happen, what colour skin the lead characters normally have and how jumping out of windows works in films. Often it resolves to do better than the movies and books we base a lot of our modern identities on. I loved how the plot didn’t turn on people irrationally keeping secrets from each other for the entire length of the novel, that two main characters are people of colour and that a gay relationship is very much in the foreground.

The icing on the cake is the invention of a new and different system of magic, which combines with the use of what I think may be anglo saxon or old norse for its magic spells to give the world of the book a unique flavour.

There are a lot of different things to enjoy about this book, and you will discover them while laughing!
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23 reviews9 followers
October 31, 2015
Ok, so, I finished it a day after purchasing it.
I must say I had my eyes on this one since I first saw the summary in the bigbangpress kickstarter. The re-take on the "chosen one" trope was just too appealing to ignore it, so I waited for it, and bought it even if it was stupidly complicated due to my being an international client.

I must say i'm really happy I bought it in the end. It was a nice story, kind of a light novel really. The best part, for me at least, was the humor, it was really funny, in a embarrassing way to be honest. I found myself laughing out loud at Ewan's irony more than once. And that alone could have granted it three stars.

On the other hand, I must say I expected better from the characters. I feel that, even being an unusual re-take of the trope, it fell in its usual failures, and the characters just didn't seem to be growing in relation to their experiences. I was constantly frustrated at Ewan's decisions, and irritated at Oliver's everything, and that helped make the process of reading quite frustrating from time to time.
I also felt Sophie was Hermione in a different universe, and that irked me a little too.

About the relationship progress, I must say that Ewan and Archie needed more bonding and development. Ewan's attraction felt somewhat exagerated, and no one really explained to me why Archie would be interested in Ewan of all people, a character, that I must say, was so plagued with bad traits that felt unrealistic, really. He was literally a good for nothing.
Absolutely nothing.
It frustrated me to no end.

So, yup, I liked the book well enough, but I would have loved seeing more growth to the characters, I felt like it kind of rushed through it.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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