If you’re a fan of The Magicians (the TV series; not Lev Grossman’s trilogy from which it was adapted), you have likely noticed the episode descriptions: oblique, yet humourously mundane descriptions of what the episode is about while smartly avoiding spoilers. I have had a fun time looking at episodes ahead, reading those descriptions, trying to figure out what, exactly, they were talking about. I bring this up, because upon opening Michael James’ The Hotel at the End of Time and spying the delicious table of contents, I was instantly reminded of those descriptions, and in the best way possible. Each and every chapter title reminded me of those descriptions, setting the tone for the story before I even started chapter one (“Vain attempts to rob a bank”, for the record).
Telling the story of Vain, her close friend Roman, and other former occupants of the mysterious Hotel, The Hotel at the End of Time tells a unique tale about powered individuals fighting for survival, while also working to uncover the mysteries of the Hotel. Whether you call the book science fiction, urban fantasy, or a superhero adventure is up to you, and at the end of the day, quite meaningless: this novel ticks the marks for all three genres, while also not finding itself limited by them.
As the book’s blurb and chapter titles hint, the book is an incredibly witty read, which left me giggling at the character’s dialogue and chuckling along with the prose. None of this is overplayed, and at no point does the tone negate the drama and stakes in the story. Instead, it serves to draw the reader into James’ madcap world and keep them turning the pages (or tapping the eReader’s screen) to find out what happens next.
At 234 pages (or 236 if you’re tapping the screen instead of turning pages), the book reads breezily, while still feeling substantial. I read this in three moderate-length sittings, and during the gaps between those sittings (which were unfortunately far longer than I had hoped), found myself thinking about James’ characters and world. In writing this review within hours of wrapping up the book, these characters are still lingering in my head, but I expect them to continue to do so for a while to come.
James uses The Hotel at the End of Time’s length well, introducing and fleshing out a number of characters, especially the three leads: POV character Vain; her perennial partner in crime Roman; and the Hotel’s latest target, the bookish Emma. In addition to these, the other former residents of the Hotel, while featured in much smaller roles, feel like real people instead of shorthand caricatures. The villainous Trick is a brilliant villain and scene-stealer, however, the major villain of the piece, Arthur, does not feature to a huge degree, and I wasn’t able to get much of a sense for his character. This isn’t a major issue: he is a mysterious character, but it is worth noting that he comes across as a threat by his reputation thanks to other character’s dialogue than anything the character does in the book. The other characters worth noting are the Wyatts: none get a great amount of time, but James has a lot of fun with the multiversal versions of this one person, working together to do Trick and Arthur’s bidding.
Accompanying the great characters, dialogue and prose is a tightly woven plot. It balances a growing cast of characters and various asides that never feel like padding with a story that keeps the momentum moving; it had me always engaged and constantly wondering what was coming next.
I should note that The Hotel at the End of Time is not a standalone story; it is in fact the first part of a series known as The Hotel. Having said this, it does stand brilliantly on its own, and while by the end of the novel it is evident that there is more of this story to come, it works as a complete tale. But as the complete tale that will leave you wanting more, just to catch up with these characters again. Thankfully, the second book in The Hotel, The Well at the Bottom of Everything, is only a matter of a few short months away.
As is probably evident from the preceding paragraphs, if you like urban fantasy, light science fiction, or superpowered characters kicking butt, I highly recommend The Hotel at the End of Time. Between the characters and prose, it is an utter delight from start to finish.
Vain stomped down the stairs to the main floor. Emma had certainly been quite cozy with Roman. Quite cozy. Quite, quite cozy. Cozy McDozy, that’s what he should call Emma from now on. Queen of Cozytown, lording over her subjects with her cozy, Roman-stealing ways.The Hotel at the End of Time, Chapter 25: “Vain hates Wyatt, like, so much.”
The Hotel at the End of Time was provided by the author for the purposes of an honest review.
The Hotel at the End of Time is available in paperback and eBook formats exclusively from Amazon.
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