What happens after the epic quest, when everyone has gone home and they have become heroes of the land, but ultimately still have to go back to their daily lives?
This is the essential question that The Afterward seeks to answer in this unique fantasy story. Most fantasy books rely on the action and intrigue of the quest itself to pull the reader in and keep the story going, but The Afterward is especially impressive because it deals with a concept that I hadn’t really considered and made it just as interesting as the quest itself. I’ve never really seen the aftereffects of an epic fantasy quest portrayed in this way and I have to say, I really enjoyed it!
In this story we follow the two youngest members of the group, Kalanthe and Olsa, in their lives both Before (during the quest) and After (after the quest is complete). We get both character’s perspectives on what it was like to be a part of the quest, but also on what the aftermath of being heroes has created for them. Despite the fact that Kalanthe and Olsa fell in love during the quest, the two of them are at odds after. As an Apprentice Knight in a world where debt knights are the way many young people afford to become knights, Kalanthe is busy worrying over how she is going to pay her debts once knighted. The one option available to her is marriage, which she is dreading because of her love for Olsa and her own sexuality. Meanwhile, Olsa has returned to being a thief, but is finding it increasingly harder to steal anything because she is the most recognizable thief in the city, landing herself in prison multiple times where Kalanthe arrives to vouch for her every time.
I loved the two main characters and how well their lives were portrayed after. I loved that the author did not have things become simple for them after their quest, their lives were messy and they both had a lot they had to work through, despite the bonds they had formed while on the quest. It ultimately made their love story all the more interesting because it felt more real. I really found myself rooting for the two of them and hoping they could just figure it out.
I really enjoyed this sweet story about two heroes trying to find their way in the world after their quest is over, while trying to also find their ways back to each other. It was fantasy but ultimately, it is also a very character-driven look at the bonds characters form on quests, and it is also just the sweetest fantasy romance ever!
One last thing that I loved about this book was how wonderfully inclusive it felt to read a story like this! There were sapphic relationships, there was talk of bisexuality, there was an allusion to asexuality, and SO. MANY. BADASS. WOMEN! The fact that this book mentioned far more lady knights than it did male knights was in itself enough for me to thoroughly enjoy this story!