Enter Hunt’s lteam of scrappy survivors, not the best of the best, or even the best of what’s left. Instead, as the squire Aveline thinks, they’re “all that was left.” From the jump, the stakes feel desperately high in this standalone, set in the world of Hunt’s Dynamicist Trilogy, and the pacing is swift for a complex and vividly detailed epic fantasy. Last Worst Hope has the urgent energy of the final book in a trilogy, as uneasy allies must face their doubt and trauma, and learn to trust each other and themselves, all while Hell (literally) breaks loose.
Last Worst Hope reads well on its own, though it’s steeped in lore Hunt established in earlier books. This time, he proves adept at bringing readers up to speed on his world’s magic, factions, and history; his scenes of politicking and tactical deliberation prove as engaging as the faceoffs with demons. What makes this story stand out, though, is Hunt’s memorable character work, as desperate rookies like Val, a commander new to commanding, or Mick, a dog-loving old salt who just might have the makings of a knight, must dig deep and step up—and possibly wield a blade “made of promises and hope.”
Takeaway: A superior epic fantasy, driven by strong characterization and a sense of utter desperation.
Great for fans of: Brandon Sanderson, John Gwynne.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent action fantasy tale
Full of action and suspense, it’s once again easy to get immersed in the Dynamicist world. Characters are painted vividly with color, personality, and little chance of success, yet it’s an action fantasy that doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are several separate stories, however they provide dimension and boundaries and start to pay off as the characters converge. If you like fantastical battles along with characters questioning trust, abilities, confidence, and courage, then Last Worst Hopes is worth the read.
This standalone, set in the world of Hunt’s Dynamicist Trilogy, raises the stakes for its unlikely set of heroes. Nehring Ardgour has torn through the proud and ancient country of Engevelen and the angelic Methueyn Knights that protect it. But it’s just the beginning: Farrah Harbinger knows the worst has yet to come: a creature of destruction and entropy like no other, the One, True Devil, who wants to destroy everything. Who can stop it? There’s no one left to even try except for a disparate group of misfits who must face their doubt and trauma while learning to trust each other and themselves. The characters, be it major or minor, are all intriguing and authentic, but none is more captivating than the unlikely group of heroes themselves, who show that courage is not the lack of fear but it is resistance to fear. Hunt skillfully reviews both his fantasy world and past events, making it easy for new readers to get in the story. And he does so without hampering the pacing or momentum. The vivid setting of the ancient nation of Engevelen is matched by a skyrocketing plot interspersed with deliciously entertaining and well-constructed scenes of fierce battles and magic. Equally intriguing is Hunt’s musing on friendship, courage, bravery, integrity, and duty. Un-put-downable.
LAST WORST HOPES
BY LEE HUNT ‧ RELEASE DATE: MAY 3, 2022
Science-based wizardry battles a demonic horde in Hunt’s latest fantasy epic.
The Methueyn War is well underway. The mad wizard Nehring Ardgour has invaded northern Engevelen using an army of skolves, or humanoid wolves, and the might of demons Skoll and Heti. The heavenly force of Methueyn Knights is dwindling, and the key to victory now lies with minor players who must rise toward greater destinies. Lt. Davignon “Dav” Delatam has seen a demon in action and has been summoned to aid Farrah Harbinger, Engevelen’s premier wizard. At Harbinger Hall, Farrah needs to find out which future path leads to Nehring’s defeat, and in order to do that, she needs Dav to interpret her visions. In the end, Farrah sees their city, Courant, destroyed and the One True Devil revealed. Meanwhile, near the city of Aurillon, Aveline “Ave” Vanier and Byron “Bro” Breaux are Deladieyr Knights, juniors to the Methueyn Knights. They carry the Methueyn Treaty, a massive 12-foot sword used in the ceremony that elevates a Knight, bonding them with a Methueyn angel. As the pool of candidate Knights shrinks, the pair prepare to send the newly risen Sir Revenberge into battle. And in Villiers, an older man known as Mick, who lives in a rest home, wants weaponry for himself and other residents, so they can defend against skolves. His sense of personal renewal begins when he saves a puppy, whom he names Fenris, from a damaged building. Greatness also calls for the wizard Halwyn Glace to push his skills further than ever alongside his fellow wizard and unrequited love, Lady Katherine Valcourt.
The events in Hunt’s latest epic occur 250 years before those in his Dynamicisttrilogy. In the prologue, Lady Koria Valcourt, Katherine’s ancestor, says, “The Methueyn Knights are an uninteresting subject, for they lacked the ability to change or grow.” This comment likens them to iconic heroes of myth, such as the Norse Thor (the bridge connecting to the Methueyn heavens is even called Bifrost, the name of a rainbow bridge in Norse myth). It also frames the narrative's main theme: that ordinary individuals can make decisions that shape history. Numerous motifs carry over from Hunt’s previous work, including a frustration with politics. Marias Garragorah, Nehring’s ambassador to Engevelen, reveals that “the best deals I have seen done, the real win-lose moments of history, have all been attended by an absence of empathy, remorse, or reciprocity.” The detailed magic system is visible in the actions of Grace, who physically incurs the thermodynamic cost of teleporting soldiers from danger (he gets colder). The demons in this book are impressively portrayed as forces of nature; we learn that, “As they drew closer to Skoll's passage, the smell of offal and rot increased....Logs, branches, produce, and shit were splashed everywhere.” The broadest human aspect is exemplified in the character arc of the elderly Mick. He’s done things he isn't proud of, but he now struggles to remember his life from moment to moment. As Fenris’ presence assures him, “He was alive, but he could see that it was all downhill...he felt sure somehow that it had all been to a purpose, to an idea that was still part of him.” Hunt exemplifies how to make heroes shine within the large cast of a sprawling saga.
A sumptuous bonus meal for fans who devoured the author’s Dynamicist trilogy.
A Cracking page-turner with an unlikely group of misfits…
Hunt’s highly gripping standalone, set in the world of his Dynamicist Trilogy, is as much a cerebral story as an action-driven tale. With the wizard Nehring Ardgour and his pawn from hell, Skoll and Hati, ripping the world apart, it seems evil has triumphed. But that’s least of Engevelen’s greatest wizard Farrah Harbinger’s worry, who discovers that an even greater threat looms over them all: the one true devil, who wants to transform the world into hell. But with all the knights dead and the master wizards spent, Engevelen’s only hope is a soldier with an evil hand, an arrogant wizard, an uncertain squire, and an old man with dementia. But they have their own insecurities and demons to deal with. Will they be enough? Hunt creates a colorful, appealing cast of characters and his atmospheric setting brings the ancient nation of Engevelen to life. Over the course of this book, Hunt offers a brisk, deeply intricate story that succeeds in keeping its large cast of colorful characters in focus, particularly the band of misfits who overcome crippling self-doubt to find their own place in the pantheon of heroes. Readers will be impressed by Hunt’s insight into dark places in the human soul as well as his fantasy world’s abundant cultural details, including magic systems, factions, history, demons, knights, wizards, warriors, and unique relationships. Hunt’s expert accumulation of razor-sharp detail, his psychological contemplation, and evocation of a marvelous landscape, a mix of magic and science, all lend an utter compulsion to the storytelling. As overlying dangers fall in the group’s way, so the intensity of their resolve deepens. He weaves in fast-paced twists and shocking revelations to keep the reader glued to the pages. Both the heroes and the villains are compelling, and the action-packed, tense battle between them keeps the pages turning. The major pleasure comes from following the group through an impenetrable maze of fast-paced chases. As the chaos surrounding the group increases, the troubled protagonists grow closer. Along the way, Hunt poses relevant questions about hope, promise, integrity, duty, resolve, resilience of human spirit in the face of extremities, and honorable conduct when faced with the severest of survival choices. Featuring a diverse ensemble cast and a unique magical world packed with courageous heroes and sinister villains, this is a whirlwind adventure that will leave readers hungry for more. Ready for grab.
Loved it! 😍
A bold fantasy novel with strong worldbuilding and a memorable cast of characters.
Whatever we are, we are all that’s left. The last, worst hope.
To say that the situation at the beginning of Lee Hunt’s Last Worst Hope is simply ‘serious’ would be like describing a wheel falling off your car as a ‘bit of a problem.’
The world of Last Worst Hope is in dire straits. Turned into the plaything of the power-hungry wizard Nehring Ardgour, it has been ravaged by the demons Skoll and Hati and the hordes of vicious skolves that they command. Despite the fearsome abilities of legendary Knights, humanity has been driven back and forced to surrender their cities, homes - and, in many cases, their lives to creatures with no concept of mercy.
It’s a high stakes situation in which to fail is to die, and to fight means shouldering the weighty burden of an eye-wateringly slim chance of survival. In this way, Hunt ensures that the plot of Last Worst Hope is rich with urgency and keen desperation - and is an appropriately suspenseful reading experience.
From the gross scent left by the skolves, to the painful vision of hordes of hellish creatures converging upon beautiful cities, leaving ruined buildings and shattered bodies in their wake, Last Worst Hope is enriched by vivid, memorable imagery that leaves the reader with a clear understanding of the horrible, human cost of the war between man and demon.
Hunt’s worldbuilding also makes a strong contribution to this well-rounded fantasy novel. The reader learns key facts about everything from the magic used by the wizards and the different people and belief systems common in the nation of Engevelen to the history of the conflict with the egotistical Nehring Ardgour, and, crucially, all without compromising on pace or urgency.
The characters of Last Worst Hope are just as memorable. With disparate backgrounds, beliefs and abilities, they’re a ragtag bunch instead of a cohesive fighting force - appropriate, given that they fight not for one city or person, but in aid of the survival of the remainder of humanity. Importantly, it is made clear that no one person can save the world with some heroic, last minute action; only by working together is survival even a possibility.
But even with the list of characters at the beginning of the novel, initially piecing together names and locations can be challenging. A timestamp at the beginning of each chapter, potentially also with a location stamp, could help some readers engage with the story more quickly - and without needing to page back to the beginning to find out who’s who.
The content of Last Worst Hope is in no way sanitised. Readers should be aware that the novel contains multiple instances and mentions of gore, death, mutilation, and post-mortem mutilation.
In summary, a great read with strong characterization. It’s likely to appeal to fans of epic fantasy novels such as those of Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan.