When a fisherman receives a mysterious letter about his beloved's demise, he sets off in his skiff to find her. A whale swallows him, then deposits him on the Isle of the Dead, which is ruled by a trio of giant bird gods. The fisherman must negotiate with the self-proclaimed leader -- a narcissistic, bullying crow -- to return his beloved to physical form.
In "The Alehouse at the End of the World," an epic comedy set in the sixteenth century, bawdy Shakespearian love triangles play out with shapeshifting avian demigods and a fertility goddess, drunken revelry, and bio-dynamic gardening. A raucous, aw-aw-aw-awe-inspiring romp, Stevan Allred's second book is a juicy fable for adults and a hopeful tale for troubled times.
A fisherman gladly gives up everything to join his beloved on the Isle of the Dead, but nothing is even close to what he expected to find when he gets there. His beloved Carina’s soul lies hidden in one of the many clams buried along the shore of the Isle of the Dead and to find it he’ll have to make a deal with the cunning and tyrannical Crow god who rules here.
I’m quite fond of the mythological concept wherein people travel to the realm of the dead in search of lost loves, but that journey is almost incidental to the plot. There are far greater stakes at play in the fisherman’s quest to return to the material world with Carina.
The Kiamah, a mighty beast born from the hatred and bloodshed of a mighty war, has devoured the entire spiritual world. The bird gods of the Isle of the Dead: the vicious Crow, scholarly Cormorant, matronly Pelican, and swashbuckling Frigate, have thus far prevented it from swallowing the material world as well by feeding it soporific conaria.
The Alehouse at the End of the World is a lyrical, lovable novel but the pace is a lot slower than what I’m used to. That was a challenge for me although it was ultimately outweighed by the many aspects I loved about this novel. To avoid any risk of spoilers, I’m going to list these elements with as little context as possible:
Sex that is as saucy as you’d expect with a fertility goddess involved, yet never veers close to being pornographic. This includes an absence of fantasy bodies and fantasy lust in the mixed group of bird gods, fertility goddess, and people engaging in it. It got a bit much for me at times but works in general.
While this is the fisherman’s tale for the most part, he’s not the only hero in this story. One could even argue that he’s the least of the heroes in this novel. Nor are the true heroes the ones you see coming.
There is a literal alehouse at the end of the world.
It’s dark and rather brutal at times. The Crow is a spiteful, cunning, narcissist of the most dangerous variety.
The ouroborous was a very nice touch.
Altogether, The Alehouse at the End of the World is a satisfying, leisurely read with interesting rhythms and invented words to satisfy literary fiction fans as well as solid mythological concepts for fantasy fans.
Book provided by the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review