Overview (No Spoilers):
At 118 pages, The Owl at The End of The World is both the shortest of our SPFBO Phase One Batch and one of the more eloquent, unique novels in our set. The length made this book feel almost like a short story or novella. It should be noted that any fantasy elements were mostly past tense references or brief interactions, but the imagery and overall story left me intrigued until the very end. Rolla paints vividly dark descriptions of a post apocalyptic world as the age of living beings is drawing to a violent close. The dramatic scenes are further cemented for the reader as they are captured by the protagonist using various forms of art, from painting to tattooing. The latter caused me physical discomfort as the descriptions of her various methods are described in prolonged, great detail. That said, between the elaborate descriptions of crumbling ruins and Gray translating them to art, even thinking about this book in passing draws forth very distinct images for the reader. Rolla’s writing style is flowing and elegant, making reading The Owl at The End of The World engaging throughout, as we explore this tragically desperate world he has created.
While The Owl at The End of The World feels like a complete story despite being on the shorter side, I would have loved to learn more about the captivating bread crumbs that Rolla spread throughout Gray’s journey toward shifting targets. I am left pondering many questions about the owls, elves, orcs, and Starlight Demons. Also, the seemingly magical aspects of the read were left unexplained, which fits, considering the earth is in decay and actively dying. Even though these loose ends are not offensively left hanging, expanding upon this potential laden foundation would have served to provide more delightful fodder for the reader in this enthrallingly dark literary world.
Overall, Rolla brings evocative imagery to his post-apocalyptic world in The Owl at The End of The World where he manages to merge a love of art and rapidly eroding conditions into one suspenseful fight for survival.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- Gray had lived most of her life in an oasis. How did she learn survival and foraging skills?
- The nightmares that Gray describes are so vividly brought to life with the cover art for this book. It is slightly creepy!
- The vulture scenes had me visibly gagging. Ugh. Poor Gray!
- How did the ancient warrior end up crystalized in amber honey? What was he protecting? What was his trigger to wake up?
- Who were the Ash Lords? What happened to them and their kingdoms?
- How were the children of the Owl created? Where did the elves and orcs come from?
- What caused the Starlight Demon to fall from the sky? What was she?
- It was interesting hearing the Great Lakes mentioned. The sequence with the tornadoes and hiding in old ships was one of my favorite scenes Rolla penned.
- The ending was so abrupt. She amputated her leg, which was surprisingly glossed over compared to the tattoo descriptions and then almost the next page she gets engulfed in lava. The End. Yes there’s a scene at the end involving the Great Owl, but so much happened in a few short pages that it was hard to really process or feel like it was actually the end of this book.
Pauldrons: a piece of armor covering the shoulder where the body piece and arm piece join