When a stranger approaches Nix and tells him he is the “savior of all mankind,” he is understandably shocked. Nix is just a regular guy with a regular life. There is no way they’ve got right guy. But as his best friend Annie reveals, Nix is the focus of a prophesy and she has been watching over him his whole life for just this moment when he will be called in to save the world. The problem is, she has no idea just what Nix is supposed to be saving the world from. Neither does the strange man, Bjorn, who told Nix he is the savior. They just know Nix is supposed to be doing something. And before Nix knows it, he finds himself waking up in another world.
Alastair is a Guardian and he has lived the last 100 years or so waiting to be called back into protection duty. Alastair doesn’t quite know what to make of Nix when he shows up, but he is just bored enough to go along for the ride and see what happens.
Despite the fact that Alastair, Annie, and Bjorn are all part of the magical world and aware of the prophesy, they still have no idea quite what Nix’s role in all this is supposed to be. He has no magic of his own, and he is more than out of his element. But it doesn’t take long before the bad guys get word that Nix has been called into service and start looking to take him out. Nix and Alastair find themselves evading one attack after another as they try to uncover just what Nix’s mission might be and what they will need to do to stop the danger. In the meantime, Nix and Alastair realize that there is a connection between them and both start falling for each other. But as the danger increases, it is soon clear that saving the world may not mean making it out alive.
Nixing the End of the World is the first book in Alice Winters’ new Phoenix’s Quest series. One of my favorite things about Winters’ books is the way she can take so many different genres, whether suspense, shifters, vampires, or now fantasy, and give them her unique spin. This story has all of Winters’ hallmark banter, silliness, and occasional absurdity. I enjoyed watching Nix get thrust into this totally new world and have to make sense of it all. Even as Annie explains the basics, they are all still at such a loss as to what they are supposed to actually be doing, other that sitting around waiting for the world to end. There is a nice “band of merry misfits” quality here as these guys can’t quite figure out what is going on and what to do, but at the same time, somehow always get it to work out in the end. They face attacks and danger right and left, not to mention Nix’s evil grandmother, Alastair’s mysterious teleporting horse (that somehow has antlers and always shows up places before them), and all sorts of other mayhem. The story is funny and crazy, with lots of silliness and a nice dose of camaraderie among the group.
What I think makes this story work, and what Winters does so well, is ground the humor in strong characters with humanity. Nix is earnest and determined, brave, and willing to risk it all and jump right in. He may not know what he is doing exactly, but he will face danger without hesitation and deals with the craziness around him with remarkable calm. He is also kind and caring and often sees the best in people, even when they may not deserve it. Alastair starts off the book as kind of an arrogant ass (but an amusing one). He knows he is gorgeous and likes to be told so, but there is also a lot more to him that is revealed throughout the story. We can see that deep down he has a lot of pain surrounding his past, and guilt for actions he inadvertently took that harmed others. Both these guys need someone to believe in them and they really give each other that support and strength.
I think the world building here is fun with lots of interesting creatures and craziness. The group pretty much divides their time between our world and the magical realm and we get a nice sense of both. I felt like the big battle at the end has a few elements that make it anti-climactic after all the build up (sorry, can’t reveal more) and that the villain could have used some more fleshing out as we really don’t get to know them or their motivation for it all.
Overall, I think if you are a fan of Winters’ writing, this is going to be right up your alley, even if you don’t usually read fantasy. The story is a lot of fun, I really enjoyed Nix and Alastair, and I am looking forward to seeing what comes next.