Fiction Friday is a series where I talk about what I’ve been reading. Short Stories (and sometimes Novellas) are featured as in-between posts and the first Friday of the month will feature a new novel review. Today, I review Fire of the Fallen by James Douglas Wallace.
Fiction Friday: Fire of the Fallen (Channelbane Book 1) Review
This month’s book is the first within the Channelbane series: Fire of the Fallen. You can find it here. This is a book filled to the brim with potential for greatness. It’s got a good fantasy setting alongside a gripping plot that kept me going. I didn’t feel bored in the slightest. Overall, this is probably my favorite book thus far that I’ve reviewed. So let’s see how it goes.
The story revolves around Tallyn Evendral, an Elphkin (a fancy way of saying “elf”) from the land of Theros who has succumbed to the power of dark magic. From the very beginning, you can sense the kind of story we’re getting ourselves into. She becomes an anti-hero seeking a cure for her curse while feeding herself with the essence of others and putting many, including Tallyn herself, at risk. The longer she lasts with the Dark magic, the worse it gets for her. However, she’s not the only one with a story. It’s a multi-POV story with a few more characters, which I’ll get to later.
As far as the main plot goes, I love it. It’s got a sense of urgency with clear good and bad characters and all of them had personality. The magic system is also unique. There are two types: dark magic and current magic. A faction known as prelates use Current magic through unique creatures known as the Wodekin (diminutive-shaped forest people). This method of magic is unique to this world and it’s something you don’t see that often in fantasy stories, especially high fantasy.
The concept of using another individual to amplify the prelate’s powers if very familiar to me. Think Persona or even the Stands from JoJo. It’s not a wholly unique idea, but it’s nice to see utilized in a creative way in an epic fantasy story.
As far as the story itself goes, I was really satisfied by the pacing. Some POV swaps were too far apart (one character is so far apart, you almost forget he exists. I’ll get to him later), but overall, the pacing was good. The book compares itself to Game of Thrones, and while it can get pretty dark, it’s nowhere near as gruesome or dark as that series. It’s relatively tame in comparison, so it’s a good alternative if GoT makes you squeamish.
The setting is your usual fictional fantasy world. However, some of the locations are mentioned so casually that it was hard for me to follow at times. The language is another thing. The ones I remember were High Kingstongue, but aside from that, I couldn’t differentiate the others. There were hints of accents, but I didn’t think the languages were noticeable enough to warrant the difference or even acknowledgment.
I’ll get into the writing a bit, but I thought some of the chapters dragged on and at times it was hard to follow. But either way, I could picture the scenes in my head. I followed along well.
I’m going to focus solely on POV characters because there’s a lot.
The first is Tallyn Evendral, the aforementioned elphkin who wields the powers of dark magic. She’s clearly the anti-hero, using her insidious power, not for fun, but to stay alive. Her curse forces her to be a monster and harm others just to keep her sane. I loved her development and has the morality complex where you can’t tell if she’s good or bad. She does do some heroic acts, such as opening a city to refugees, whose kingdom refuses to let them in.
Her story is good, but I do wonder how she got her dark powers in the first place. Obviously finding out now would ruin the fun, but her story is interesting enough that I want to find out more.
The second POV character and secondary main character is Alden Mallador. I couldn’t help but notice that the guy’s name is the same as the surname of a pair of siblings my upcoming WIP, so that’s a nice touch, personally. As for his character, he starts off on trial for a crime he may or may not have committed, but after discovering his potential with current magic, he becomes a prelate against his will. He discovers his newer companions are like a second family to him. Even though he used to be a blacksmith, his powers are vitally important throughout the story.
The fact that he’s accused of a crime that could sentence him to death and have the prelates be all buddy-buddy to him makes me wonder what the point of the trial was. To an extent, I almost forgot partway through the book that the trial even happened. I wasn’t sure what to make of that, but as far as Alden, I really enjoyed his story arc and feel like he and the prelates have a good story to tell. Going back to the GoT comparison I’d compare him to Jon Snow in that both are the primary male protagonist like Tallyn and Daenerys. His story was more interesting for me than Tallyn’s and I felt that the story focused a little more on him than her. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing and it’s not like Tallyn wasn’t shafted. She still got a lengthy part herself, but I felt the story was more him than the others.
Mehrthonus Belduin is the next one, and the main villain of the series. While his purpose remains unclear so far, he believes himself to be the true channelbane, a person capable of wielding both current and dark magic at once. As far as the character goes, he’s a good villain. Not too comically evil, but evil enough that we see who he truly is. While characters like Tallyn have that questionable side to them, Mehrthonus has a clear sense of whose side he’s on. He is the established bad guy.
And considering what the series is called, my guess is Tallyn will be the real channelbane. Either that or we see both of them become channelbane and duke it out in an epic battle, but only time will tell.
The next one is Cyn. She’s a wodekin, a small race of magic-infused beings who assist prelates in current channeling. I mentioned that I compared them to the kinds of powers that invoke a spiritual being, but it’s nice to see utilized in an epic fantasy series that isn’t made in Japan (where this spiritual ally stuff is common in games and anime). Cyn’s a nice touch to the series and she doesn’t feel goofy at all. She’s a wodekin child forced into battle by accepting the offer of a prelate. Being so young, it’s obviously taken a toll on her and her family. I really like the concept of wodekin in general and differentiates it from other epic fantasy books. That’s what I want to see in fantasy. I want the more mystical side that isn’t just “It’s medieval England, except when it’s not.” I think, while this doesn’t fully break the generic medieval fantasy vibe, it does make me interested in this world and I appreciate this book for that.
And last, but not least, a character I had mixed feelings about because I’m not sure where the author is going with him. Brohm. He has no last name, likely left out intentionally for the big twist with this character, which I won’t spoil out of kindness, but as far as his character goes, I’m not sure what to think. Clearly, this is just the beginning, but there are parts when it seems like he’s gone for good, and then several chapters later, he comes back, unharmed and you realize “Oh, that’s him.” When I first saw him, I wasn’t sure why he was even in the story at all.
He dies and a few chapters later “Wait, he survived after all.” Again, I understand the intention, but I thought there should have been a little more time to sense what his purpose was and why he even exists in the story at all. He’s the secondary protagonist, again, like Daenerys in GoT, but while he has a big plot moment towards the very end, his purpose is still unclear. Perhaps the next book would change that, but as it stood, I wasn’t sure of the real point of this character so far. Maybe it’s sequel will explain that, but for now, while I didn’t hate the character, his role was unclear.
Now let’s talk about the writing. I was pretty mixed when it came to this. It’s pretty good for epic fantasy and it really dragged me into the world. However, I had a few issues with it.
First, and most apparent, is the descriptions dragged on a lot. Most of it was exposition, but while the author is trying to build up the setting, it felt like reading a textbook rather than a story. I don’t actually read too much epic fantasy (I’m changing that by reading a few), so I don’t know if this is a common thing, but plenty of times I was dragged out of the story to read a long monologue of certain characters that went on for pages before anything happened.
It would have been nice if the exposition was toned down a bit, or even brought into later books. The first book of a massive series usually sets up the world, but there was information that could have been told later. A lot of the inner thoughts too, I didn’t think was necessary, even if it did showcase the characters.
Second, and also a concerning part: too many typos. All throughout I spent so much time stopping the progress and highlighting typos on my kindle. And I’m sure I counted at least 15 or more. I felt like this could have used a small round of proofreading before publication. Perhaps this could get a second edition with these errors fixed, but it became very distracting. I always get grumpy when I see typos, especially in published works.
Which is a shame, because this is a very good story. I understand dealing with a large manuscript isn’t easy (even I notice some typos in my own finished works), but it would have helped to run through these a little longer so that the experience is smooth for the reader.
Overall, this was an amazing experience. Between my last review and this, this might have the more interesting story and characters. It’s a unique take on the usual epic fantasy that I can’t wait to see what else this story has to offer. So that’s all for this. Well worth the read if you can forgive the typos. Next story is an anthology based on a major science fiction franchise, so stay tuned for that.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.