REVIEW: A War to End All by Michael R. Fletcher and Clayton Snyder

Last Updated on March 8, 2024

Eight years after the publishing world gifted us with the magnificent Beyond Redemption and six years after The Mirror’s Truth, we finally have Michael R Fletcher’s conclusion to the Manifest Delusions trilogy. A War to End All by Michael R. Fletcher and co-author Clayton W. Snyder is in, and it’s everything I had hoped it would be. I am sad it’s over, and happy I’ve seen this trilogy through to the end. I’ve laughed a lot and dry retched a little. I’ve been inside the minds of two brilliant authors to bring this story to a close and I need an internal imagination scrubbing, please. Or a beer and somebody to betray. Either way: welcome to the crazy town express; next stop, the madness central business district.

Cover for A War to End All by Michael R. Fletcher and Clayton W. SnyderA word of warning: this is book three in a trilogy. Spoilers for books one and two ahead. If this is the first you are hearing of Michael R. Fletcher and this wonderfully insane trilogy, I suggest you stop right now, and click through to our review of Beyond Redemption and start this madness where it should be begun. For the rest of you, come with me.

In A War to End All the godling Morgen wants use his delusions to rule a world that he shapes to be clean and ordered. Morgen’s reflection (an alter ego given human form and power by breaking free from a mirror) Nacht wants to supplant Morgen to rule a world of chaos and filth. Konig just wants to rule whatever steaming pile of rubble sits beneath him, as long as he is top of the tree. Morgen and Konig’s doppels (parts of their personalities freed from their bodies and given human form and a splinter of power) want chaos and freedom and power. And Gehirn wants to burn it all. Amongst the weft and ruin of greater powers Wichtig (the Greatest Swordsman in the World) takes on a new apprentice while his knees start creaking and his sword slows, and Stehlen does what Stehlen does by ruining everything good in her life. From the filth of the final battle and the fates of our favourite crew in The Mirror’s Truth Morgen and his doppels begin a crusade to cleanse the world. A war to end all.

If that last paragraph read like an absolute bloody mouthful, it’s not surprising at all. So much has happened since we first met Konig as he created a god that he would rule, who Bedeckt and his crew then stole, that it’s very difficult to wrap up what this story is in one fell swoop. It’s a book of contemptible characters who you somehow care about as they make their ways towards an oft-deserved end, in whatever form that takes. It’s a story of self reflection, of realising who you are and accepting it, running from it, or fighting against it. And all of this against a backdrop of the end of the world. In the words of the authors:

Anyone who expected any of this to end well is a fucking idiot.

For me, this book is more about the wrapping up of characters than it is the overarching apocalyptic plot line. It’s about Morgen’s obsession with cleanliness and order, and trying to impose that on a species (us) that accepts anything but, leading him to be what he hates most. It’s Gehirn finding her freedom in the purity of the cleansing flame; of her breaking free of every man that has used her to destroy people and cities as opposed to create things with her power. It’s Wichtig’s gradual crumbling from a god of the duel to a man whose age has caught up with him. And its about how the authors have given these characters, and more, a fitting ending–some what they deserve, others, not so much. As it is in life.

For me, the best plot lines belong to these three characters. Wichtig’s story is funny, and cruel, and the chapter where he fights a duel against two swordsmen which begins the first real crumbling of his confidence in three books is just wonderfully written, laugh out loud hilarious, and hits home for any of us that were once half decent amateur sportspeople and now can’t stand up without groaning. Morgen’s slow crumbling into what he hates is the central masterpiece of this book. Brutal and bluntly questioning some of the core ethics that make up modern society, he’s an excellent read. But Gehirn remains my favourite, with her transition from being used as a thing by every man in power she is unfortunate enough to run in to, to obtaining her own will–albeit a very unhinged will bent on some seriously horrible genocide-level stuff–and unleashing her true self on the world around her. She is a fiery joy to read.

Morgen and Konig’s doppels and Morgen’s reflection Nacht also help bring this story to life, wreaking havoc left, right, and centre. They provide plenty of unexpected events and loads of funny moments where you look at yourself and some of the ridiculous things you do in life and laugh out loud (cynically, naturally). In my eyes, apart from Nacht, who was a key antagonist actively fighting against Morgen, a little too much of the book was dedicated to these characters. They provided plenty of necessary introspection on the thematic underpinnings of the world and the series, but sometimes I felt an urge to skip ahead and get back to the characters driving the end of the age who I was more invested in. I did smash out the last 60% of this book in one glorious sitting, however, so take that with a pinch of salt.

Fletcher and Snyder’s customary cynical commentary, which makes tremendous fun of some modern world politics (a quote from Tangerine Trumpf, anyone?), is a joy to read, with plenty in there for readers looking for some cheekily philosophical layers on top of a fun fantasy romp. In particular I did very much love the the intro snippets of lore quotes at the start of each chapter throughout the book.

The War to End All is not a book you can pick up and read with no prior knowledge of the first two books, but when you have those previous works under your wing, this book is just fun and wild, and expansive, and bloody out there. The Manifest Delusions trilogy has been an absolute ride, and I am so happy to have read these three wonderful books over eight years. To create a satisfying ending to this trilogy based on such a wild magic system was no mean feat, and I tip my mug of horse piss to the authors.

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Adrian Collins

Adrian Collins

Adrian Collins runs Grimdark Magazine and loves anything to do with telling darker stories. Doesn't matter the format, or when it was published or produced--just give him a grim story told in a dark world by a morally grey protagonist and this bloke's in his happy place. Add in a barrel aged stout to sip on after a cheeky body surf under the Australian sun, and that's his heaven.