After The End is a very enjoyable “The Fugitive” type chase adventure featuring a strong protagonist and an interesting premise. Author Plum builds the mystery expertly, ensuring that the pace never suffers and the focus is on her characters. But the lack of a definitive arc means this is more about the journey than reaching an ending with resolution, leaving the door open for the next in the series.
Story: 17 year old Juneau is raised in a remote compound in Alaska, using survival skills and a connection to the world’s life force (Yara) to make a comfortable living with her small group. They were told the world was destroyed in 1984 through World War III and that the land beyond their safe area is a wasteland. But when her entire village is kidnapped, she must leave and venture out into the world if she hopes to save her father and friends. Soon she will find that everything she has been told is not true – and betrayal will make her journey that much more difficult. With the help of Miles, the son of the man who has been trying to capture her, she will travel across Canada and the US, learning more about the real reason for her village’s existence and herself as well. For Miles, this will be a journey of redemption.
The story is told through two POVs: Juneau and Miles. Plum’s strength as a writer has always been to give protagonists you root for and want to follow. There is an innate warmth, a goodness, that admittedly was a bit treacly and cartoonish in Plum’s previous works. But in After The End, we are given an endearing female character with strength and drive and a male character who transforms under Juneau’s influence from a directionless dilettante into a smart and resourceful companion.
Admittedly, I did not enjoy Plum’s Revenant series: I read the first book and felt the characters were a bit too perfect, immature, and flat. But with this series, she has created rich characters that don’t whine, stomp feet, or act without thoughts of consequence. Juneau (all the village children are named Alaskan Cities) and Miles are resourceful, skeptical where needed, and motivated through intelligence rather than simply reacting all the time. Juneau especially is a strong, well defined protagonist whose journey we want to follow.
The worldbuilding here is interesting, though once again Plum has created moustache-twirling bad guys (in this case, government types). Most of the book is a long road trip chase as Juneau comes to know Miles. Plum dodges a few coincidence bullets by giving Juneau the ability to create prophecies. The ‘magic’ of the Alaskan village is interesting and Plum takes care to create limitations. I worry that Juneau might become a bit too ‘Superman’ by the next book: we’ll see if the constraints remain.
In all, if you’ve read and liked Plum’s other work, you’ll like this too. All her hallmarks are here: warm, rich, likeable, intelligent characters, urban fantasy with a bit of magic, and a grand adventure. If you haven’t liked her previous series or not read her, give this a try. It’s an easy, enjoyable read with good characters, interesting premise, and a great adventure.
Reviewed from an ARC.