Synopsis: All the horrors of Hell stand between Snorri ver Snagason and the rescue of his family, if indeed the dead can be rescued. For Jalan Kendeth, getting out alive and with Loki’s key is all that matters. Loki’s creation can open any lock, any door, and it may also be the key to Jalan’s fortune back in the living world.
Jalan plans to return to the three w’s that have been the core of his idle and debauched life: wine, women, and wagering. Fate, however, has other plans, larger plans. The Wheel of Osheim is turning ever faster, and it will crack the world unless it’s stopped. When the end of all things looms, and there’s nowhere to run, even the worst coward must find new answers. Jalan and Snorri face many dangers, from the corpse hordes of the Dead King to the many mirrors of the Lady Blue, but in the end, fast or slow, the Wheel of Osheim always pulls you back. In the end, it’s win or die.
Corey: Well, here we are at the end of all things, to borrow a phrase. The Wheel of Osheim concludes The Red Queen’s War trilogy, and does so in pretty epic fashion. I think Prince of Fools is ultimately my favorite of the three, but The Wheel of Osheim is undeniably awesome!
The opening to this book was especially bonkers. Our hero, Jalan Kendeth, on a madcap desert adventure! Riding camels, having an illicit tryst with a Sheik’s daughters, and a gross-out dinner scene (boiled sheep heads, candied scorpions) that felt like a beautiful homage to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom!!
It’s hard to believe we’ve finished this trilogy! I think Mark Lawrence really wrapped this up nicely, combining all the elements we’ve come to expect from this series (hijinks & humor, lots of bloody battles, LEGIONS OF THE UNDEAD, and also small & brutally human moments), while continuing to add new elements & take chances as a writer. In particular, I loved the addition of the third person, present tense passages!
Holly: This world that Mark Lawrence has created is beautifully executed. The story that unfolds is as funny as it is dark; as tender as it is brutal; as clever as it is exciting. Truly, it is something else!
The Liar’s Key ends on a pretty wild cliffhanger & The Wheel of Osheim one ups that with an even crazier beginning! Whereas I thought The Liar’s Key started off a bit slow, Osheim sets a frenetic pace from the get-go! It’s filled to the brim with twists & palpable tension!
The storytelling again involves flashbacks, something Mark Lawrence always brilliantly injects. I think they were the most successful in this installment, for sure.
Corey: It took awhile to resolve that cliffhanger from The Liar’s Key! I was definitely getting anxious, but also trusting Lawrence to tie off any loose ends!
I was feeling greedy, and looking for SO MANY MORE flashbacks to Alica Kendeth’s earlier days, before her rise to power as The Red Queen. That was easily my favorite element in The Liar’s Key, so to see that skipped over here was somewhat disappointing. That said, I put my faith in Mark Lawrence’s very capable hands, and enjoyed the ride!
I think one of the more surprising things in this book was how much time Lawrence dedicated to the siege on the castle! I mean….that’s a HUGE chunk of this book! Just literally mountains of the undead, endless chasing, fighting, death & dismemberment. And IT…WAS…AWESOME!!! I think in another author’s hands, it would’ve become tedious, repetitive. But here, it’s just thrilling & totally immersive. All the horror, the fear, the shock of this gruesome & tireless army of the undead…it’s just splashed all over these pages in glorious detail!!!
Holly: I fully agree about Alica Kendeth. I was also hoping for more of an appearance from her.. but hopefully this just means that there will indeed be a prequel series dedicated to her! JUST TAKE MY GODDAMN MONEY ALREADY!!!
Snorri was also deeply missed. I seriously cannot get enough of him! Lawrence continues to dangle him in front of me like a massive Viking carrot. Is it too much to ask for a Snorri story as well as the Alica/Builders prequel? I mean.. I’m sure Mark Lawrence will appease us, right?!
This installment really was all Jal. With Osheim being so much about him, we get a more in-depth look at just how far he has come as a character. Much like with Jorg, Mark Lawrence has evolved Jalan immensely from the beginning to the bitter end! There is no doubt that Jal is meant to be the hero of this story. A reluctant one, but one all the same.
And those long battle scenes with the hordes of the undead? Suspenseful, grim, devastating & oh so entertaining! The chilling monstrosities that Lawrence has created are not only horrific, but pretty damn unique, too. SO FUCKING BADASS!
Corey: Snorri was definitely missed through huge sections of this one!! The chemistry between he & Jalan is just perfect, so I was sad to see him in a smaller (but hugely pivotal) role in the final book.
Has there ever been a more reluctant hero than Jalan Kendeth? He shows these heartbreaking flashes of humanity, and a great depth of feeling for those around him. He always seems to be getting dust or smoke in his eyes at key moments. But through it all, all the adventure & horror, the death & destruction, he’s desperately trying to cling to his old ways. To find his way back to an easy lifestyle of gambling, drinking, and Lisa DeVeer! It’s that internal struggle that makes his character so engaging & fascinating…if we were looking at this trilogy through the lens of The Hero’s Journey, it’s like Jal is just clinging to the Refusal Of The Call stage, all the while getting dragged on through the various other stages.
Holly: That is what also makes him so damn relatable. That struggle of reluctant ambition so many of us face!
What I really love is the humor of these books. You’ve got these horrendous acts of violence taking place & yet here I am, laughing my face off. I’m demented, don’t get me wrong. But Lawrence is just that insanely talented! He injects each book with this brilliant humor. Genuinely funny, laugh-out-loud humor. That is a hard thing to pull off within the dark fantasy genre & Lawrence does it masterfully!
It is clear that The Wheel of Osheim takes place prior to Emperor of Thorns, because of certain events that occur. With this knowledge, we are then given a glimpse into what happens with Jalan & this final book midway through. This perhaps takes away a bit of the mystery, but it is still an amazing conclusion & the thrill of finding out what is the truth behind the Wheel was unmistakably intriguing!
Overall, this was a fantastic end to The Red Queen’s War trilogy! It is bittersweet to now be caught up on Lawrence’s work. That is, until Road Brothers (!!!) is released.
The Grimdragons Rating: 4 unimaginable hellbeasts out of 5