Publisher: Tor Books
Page Count: 352
Release Date: November 5th, 2019
Series: THE SHROUD OF PROPHECY, Book 1
Rating: 3/5 Stars – Liked It
Note: I was provided a free ARC by the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.
According to the Aldrea Prophecies, there is one, and only one, thread of fate where the Chosen One will rise up and defeat a great evil and save the land. All other threads lead to death. Mathias has just learned he’s the Chosen One, and together with his best friend Aaslo and his mage guardian, they leave their quiet hamlet to complete his destiny. But when things start going awry and parts of the prophecy fail, kings, mages, and commoners start preparing for the end. After all, only one thread led to salvation, and if they aren’t on that thread anymore, why keep fighting? But our heroes aren’t ready to let prophecies decide the fate of the world, and they will travel the entire length of the realm to find the power they need to succeed.
FATE OF THE FALLEN is a book that has a lot of great elements: twists you don’t see coming, dry humor, action-packed set pieces. Unfortunately, the moment-to-moment plotting just didn’t quite hold up for me, leaving me a little lukewarm on the book overall. It’s shame because when the book lands, it does so in a spectacular fashion. One twist early on left my jaw on the floor. The final battle, when pieces of a prophecy click into place, was an exciting conclusion with stunning visuals and reveals that left me on a high that I wish had been sustained throughout the story.
The characters themselves are largely enjoyable. Mathias might be the Chosen One, but it’s Aaslo who holds the story together, the Samwise Gamgee who is steadfast in his commitment to Doing the Right Thing. He’s baffled that the majority of people seem content to just lay down and let the world burn down around them without putting up any kind of a fight. Teza, a mage-in-training who joins the story part way through the book, was an energetic kick the book needed, and I welcomed her addition to the team. And of course, a delightful horse named Dolt who steals the scene (and several hats) every time he’s on the page. There are still others who join the party over the course of Mathias’s and Aaslo’s adventure, and its the kind of “assemble the adventure party” trope where you look forward to seeing the united group move forward into the next book.
But even with all those positive elements, I sometimes found myself struggling to stay engaged with FATE OF THE FALLEN. Some of that was due to what felt like a meandering structure. There’s a lot of travel time in this book, sometimes without clear destination or goals, especially in moments where our heroes go “Well that didn’t turn out as expected…now what?” These sections are occasionally broken up by a viewpoint character named Myropa, a reaper who can cross between the world of Aldrea and the world of the gods. There’s a whole pantheon here (though we largely focus on four gods), each with their own agenda for Aldrea as they vie to increase their own power. While I like Myropa and the perspective she brought to the book, it sometimes felt like we were spending a little too much time in the divine realms, grinding the plot to a halt.
There was one feature in this book that particularly hampered my enjoyment. As the journey progresses, Aaslo starts hearing a voice that comments on situations and ridicules both Aaslo and the people he’s interacting with. Aaslo frequently talks back to the voice in full view of other people – other people who assume he is talking to them and misinterpret his remarks. What started out as an amusing moment quickly devolved into a grating, repetitive device; even when Aaslo “whispers” or “mutters” his response, someone always assumes he’s talking to them. Your mileage my vary on how you fare with this particular aspect, but it was a joke I wish had been dispensed with.
FATE OF THE FALLEN is a book one where I’m not quite sure if I want to continue with the series. As I mentioned, when this book lands, it’s a great read, and I did find myself speeding through chunks with surprising ease. And having laid out the groundwork and made a few reveals, there’s a chance that a sequel will only improve upon what was laid out here. But our heroes are on a quest with no clear goal, and that showed in the lack of a real pressure clock on the plot. FATE OF THE FALLEN ends with the world of Aldrea in a precarious and intriguing state, but it remains to be seen if that’s enough to save the overall series from my DNF pile.