Title: The Alehouse at the End of the World
Author: Stevan Allred
Publisher: Forest Avenue Press (Portland), 2018
Available locally: Black Sun Books, 2467 Hilyard St. (541-484-3777); and J. Michaels, 160 E. Broadway (541-342-2002)

By Daniel Buckwalter

As a morality tale, this one is simple and straight forward. There’s the hero, the longing for a reunited love that will not be entirely fulfilled, and beauty in the goodness and love found in everyday life.

There also is the ugly, a monster bent on devouring his way to world domination, the tyrant and his army, and spies whom you aren’t sure to trust until near the end.

Yet how Stevan Allred, a Portland-area author, gets to the end is where his new novel, The Alehouse at the End of the World, shines. It was released in November, and it’s a fun novel with great characters.

Allred’s dense, rich imagination carries the reader to isolated, far-off islands, including the Isle of the Dead, where souls are buried in clam shells on the beach, secrets are sealed among shape shifters and demigods, and intrigue stretches everywhere.

There is Fisherman. He has no name. He’s known only as Fisherman. He’s the hero stranded on a far-flung island, and he misses his wife. One morning Frigate Bird (stay with me here) is instructed to drop a note in front of Fisherman’s hut by Fisherman’s wife. She will die soon.

“Send it to him, and tell him I waited,” she said. “Tell him he’s my one true love. Tell him I forgave him long ago, and that I will wait for him on the Isle of the Dead. Fisherman receives the note. He is distraught, but patient. He is one with the sea, and he will wait for its sign.

The sign comes in the form of pelicans, who “turned to face the waves, until the whole squadron stood together, pointing at the sea with their beaks striped red and blue. He heard the sound of human speech in their avian voices. ‘This way,’ they croaked. ‘This way.’ “

So Fisherman slides into a canoe and sets forth to the Isle of the Dead. The waves are monstrous, though, and Fisherman is lost. A whale soon comes and swallows Fisherman whole. He is inside the whale for days, until the whale reaches the spirit world of the Isle of the Dead. The whale belches, and Fisherman spills out. His formerly rough and tanned skin is now albino white.

Characters and events get happily stranger from here. Where to begin?

There’s Cormorant, who wears “spectacles, pinched onto his bill in the manner of a scholar or a scribe.” There’s Pelican, the female who brought Fisherman to life on the beach after the whale’s belch.

Then there’s Crow. He is the self-anointed “King of the Dead.” He took the place of Raven, who mysteriously vanished and is presumed dead at the hands of Crow, and who is a conniving sort who always strives for a bargain to keep and expand his kingdom.

These birds are at least six feet tall, speak perfect English (among other languages) and keep Fisherman on edge as he gains his footing.
Fisherman and Crow strike a deal early on for the clamshell soul of Fisherman’s wife, which Crow finds buried in the sand. In return, Crow gets the “magical glass” that, he hopes, can start an eternal fire.

Yet Fisherman needs help to bring his wife, Cariña, out of the clamshell. Enter Frigate Bird, who introduces Fisherman to the stunningly beautiful “Dewi Sri, Goddess of Rice, Supreme Matron of Motherhood, and Devine Regent of Bali Dwipa, the Isle of Ritual.

Everyone bows.

From here, there’s further intrigue and battles to be fought. Have I mentioned the Kiamah beast who wants to eat the material world and who must be slain?


I encourage you to read The Alehouse at the End of the World and read to its material end. Then read the speculation of the spiritual world that Fisherman, Cariña and Dewi Sri enter.

It’s the stuff of legend.