To Whatever End by Claire Frank explores the underutilized relationship of a married couple in a fantasy book and it works really well. This book is not about two young lovers that meet each other during some fantastic quest but a slightly older couple that has been married for a few years. Because the reader knows that these lovers have an already established and strong relationship, we become much more invested in the story when something goes seriously wrong for one of the two.
Daro and Cecily are veterans of a war where they ousted one King for another. They are now married together and living their life in relative safety. When they go back to the kingdom’s capital things go awry as Daro is kidnapped by a group of men in black with magical powers beyond anything Cecily has ever seen. Cecily, along with the group that first worked together in the uprising, must now find and rescue her husband before he succumbs to the mental reconditioning that may create a monster.
To Whatever End starts off as a comfortable fantasy read that lures the reader into a calmness as we fall in love with the marriage that Daro and Cecily have. When Daro is kidnapped, things turn much darker. The psychological torture that Daro must endure by the individuals that kidnap him is at times a difficult thing to read. It never crosses any boundaries but it also builds tension within the story because it puts Cecily and their friends on a timer. If they don’t find Daro quick enough, the man they all knew may disappear. Cecily’s resolve and strength during this period of time of trying to find her husband, searching for clues in the capital city, really showcases the strength of her character.
The magic system in this story is entertaining and reminds me some of some of the powers the X-Men have. All of the magic is focused around doing something with mental energy. All the people doing magic can do it to various degrees of effectiveness and with different powers. One individual can cause rocks he throws to blow up while another person takes the energy from his surroundings. Cecily herself is powerful, being able to push and pull different things. All of this magic will seem rather familiar and nothing groundbreaking to most readers.
Claire Frank writes To Whatever End in a simplistic way that gets to the point. I think the thing lacking the most in this story is Frank’s ability to turn a phrase. There just isn’t any sentence that makes you think or you recognize as good writing. Most of the vocabulary used is rather mundane and she could definitely expand on some themes in a more poetic way. This is her debut novel too and I’m hoping to see some improvement in the sequels.
To Whatever End is a quick book with a rescue plot that really works because of the reader’s connection to the two main characters. I really enjoyed the side character that worked with Cecily to find Daro. One of the bad guys with Daro is highly enjoyable and I hope to see more of him in the future. Overall the book knows where its strength is, the relationship, and uses that effectively, but there wasn’t anything else that made me excited while reading it. Solid debut fantasy that I liked but I hope that the sequel is more ambitious. Worth reading to read about a married couple and a conflict that comes between them.
13/25 Possible Score
2(OK) – Plot
3(Good) – Characters
2(OK) – World Building
2(OK) – Writing Style
3(Good) – Heart & Mind Aspect