One of the things that annoys me about narratives based on a painful and bloody struggle against terrific odds and powerful opponents is that after several hundred pages, or even a thousand, of grim, back-against-the-wall situations, the authors wind everything up in three pages of happy ending. So after hours of reading about agony and suffering, readers are given only two or three minutes of pleasure as a reward, which hardly seems fair.
Mark Chadbourn, however, has sunk to new depths in his series The Dark Age. The three books ("The Devil in Green," "The Queen of Sinister" and "The Hounds of Avalon", all published by Pyr and all $16) chronicle an Earth in collapse, as suddenly all the demons and devils of myth and magic have come to life, destroying the world as we know it.
The various heroes battle their way through plenty of blood and trauma, with minor characters sacrificing themselves left and right to save humanity, and the protagonists going through torture and despair. Chadbourn does toss in a few pages of respite here and there, but for the most part, it's the overpowering forces of evil crushing tiny sparks of good for three straight books.
But then, as we finally wind down in the last great battle, with the icy winter of the last days combining with millions of undead intent on destroying all human beings, Chadbourn shows us the door to redemption - but never walks through it. That's right, after three full books, there is not a single moment of triumph. There is the promise of some (and it's conceivable Chadbourn will write about it in another trilogy), but it's never delivered. So readers, after suffering along with the several heroes (some left over from the previous trilogy, The Age of Misrule), get nothing for their efforts but a doorway full of light - and that's not close to being enough reward for me.