The End of the Line by Gray Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I've been sitting on this review a little because I wanted to separate the book and my personal reaction to the themes. Because I started off the book with "ooooh MAGICAL LONDON! So exciting!" descended into "Ugh what is this creepy Exorcist stuff", nearly stopped reading it, and then pushed on with an overall "eh, not bad, not bad at all!"
(Let's say an average 3.5 stars? Excluding my squick moments.)
So content warning: There's demon summoning & possession in this book, which might be a bit too dark/scary/real for some readers. Then again I don't read horror for a reason, so maybe I'm just easily scared. If I could liken the paranormal stuff to something else, it reminded me of the Catholic exorcism novel I couldn't finish reading in my teens because it was too freaky. This isn't as freaky, but parts of it came close. Do not read alone in the dark.
At heart, The End of the Line is a high-stakes thriller/horror crossover with magical elements. Instead of a heist or a political coup, Williams gives you a criminal crew who manages to summon a demon for monetary gain, only to lose control of it with devastating consequences. Amanda Coleman hates Abras and magic with a passion--mainly because of what her Abra father did to her as a child--but she is the only one who can solve this, especially when her last remaining child's life is on the line. The body count is very high in this one.
The initial start is a little rough going. Williams throws you right in the action, jumping back and forth to the past as the narrative progresses. It's a little frustrating until you reach a certain point of understanding because there are a million niggling details that annoy you until you reach the bit where something is revealed and it hits you OH THAT'S WHY. ISH YOU COULD HAVE TOLD US EARLIER. But that's suspense for you, and if suspense is your thing, this book has oodles of it.
Coleman comes across as cold and evil at times, her extreme hard-headedness and prejudice when it comes to magic a difficult thing to understand. But as events unfold and backstories are revealed, you also feel some sympathy for her and the choices she makes. Some, I say, because whilst I feel that the motivations and stakes are high enough for Coleman to react the way she does, I'm expecting it will garner a lot of "unsympathetic character" comments just because she is female. (Men are allowed to make hard decisions that end up in blood, women not so much. Go figure.) And since the story depends so much on Coleman, this is one of those books where if you don't like the main protagonist, you're just going to end up not liking the book.
All in all, Williams tells a great, if scary, story. There are layers upon layers, slowly unfolding as you travel with Coleman, Caleb, Skeebs, Steph and Reeves to Russia. Blink and you might miss them.
Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Canelo via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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The End of the Line releases on Monday, 8 July! Preorder now.