James Salley is turning sixteen, and it’s not going well. His family’s too busy to care, the local bully creates new tortures daily, someone appears to be following him, and he’s just learned that he’s the Antichrist. All James ever wanted out of life was for Dorian Delaney — the operatically trained and suicidal girl of his dreams — to fall as in love with him as he is with her. But once he’s told of his bloody destiny, he finds himself fighting between who he thought he was and who he’s supposed to be. With the school librarian pushing him to begin the Apocalypse, an irritable homunculus watching his back, and a murderous cabal of Catholics following him everywhere, James must discover how to navigate a world in which everything he’s ever believed is wrong — and if it’s possible to be the hero of a story when you’ve already been cast as the villain.
This is Not the EndFeatured
A Modern Twist on the Antichrist Prophecy
James Salley is a talented sixteen-year-old who is bullied relentlessly and considering suicide. We first meet him as he sits atop the water tower in Stone Grove, Illinois and contemplates ending it all, but he fortunately decides not to take that path. Instead we are immersed in a interesting approach to the coming of age story—one in which the protagonist is a cock-eyed take on the antichrist and is destined to bring about the war to truly end all wars.
James spends the first half of THIS IS NOT THE END dealing with some awful, but sadly typical, teen issues. He’s bullied. There are pretty girls everywhere—most of whom only know he exists in the least flattering way possible. He loves to draw and would rather be dealing with the world he’s illustrating instead of the one in which he’s living. And his parents seem to forget he exists--until the least convenient time, of course. But then he’s told by the new school librarian that he’s the War Bringer for Taloon, a realm that exists parallel to Earth, and he’s prophesized to start a battle that will bring an end to the limbo in which that world currently exists. Our world will recognize him as the antichrist.
THIS IS NOT THE END has a great premise and the author, Jesse Jordan, exhibits strong skill with character development. Some of his observations on high school life are expertly rendered. One of the many quotes that made me pause and nod was “Little knots of students stood wasting time, separated from each other by only a few feet geographically but by an invisible line of absolute truth socially.” After the heartache of the bullying scenes, I was thankful for some rather funny bits in the last half of the book, too.
The book is fantasy, but there are some aspects that still made me go “hmmm.” James’s parents are NEVER around, and although explanations are given, that aspect of the plot seems an afterthought. James also has incredible power that he chooses not to use even after he finds out he’s capable of it—even in the most dire of circumstances.
There are footnotes throughout the book that offer some excellent backstory for many locations and individuals. However, those footnotes are also a bit of a distraction from the story—particularly at the beginning when they’re quite extensive.
Overall, THIS IS NOT THE END is a smart new take on a much-used device. The author’s skill ensures that James grows into a character worth following, and the action advances at a good pace.
My thanks to the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
Great development of the main character