Friday, April 17, 2009

Fallen, Tim Lebbon

Make sure to click on the picture of the cover to view the larger version for full impact.


Shrouded in mystery from time immemorial, the Great Divide – a treacherous sheer cliff soaring miles into the clouds above – has long provoked curiosity and fear in Noreela’s human inhabitants. If anyone can penetrate the myths surrounding it, they will instantly enter into legend and garner wealth and glory beyond imagination.

The potent lure of promised fame and riches entices two Voyagers, Ramus and Nomi, to attempt the impossible and they embark on their perilous quest amid great secrecy. But with danger lurking in the shadows around them, they never suspect the greatest threat may lie within themselves…

Having pawed the hardback copies of Fallen several times whilst visiting Forbidden Planet purely for its pretty cover (the truth, I swear, ask Sian!) I was incredibly chuffed to receive a copy of the newly released paperback in the post from Tim's UK publishers, Allison and Busby.

I fell to it with gusto. And if you follow me on twitter and Facebook, you will now that I've been putting notes out saying: Fallen is awesome, brilliant, amazing, a must-read...

Well, now that I've actually finished it, had some time to reflect on it and form coherent sentences in my head, here's the review.

What makes Fallen such a treat in fantasy writing is the fact that Tim Lebbon's taken his characters and set them up to go on a phyiscal journey and the tremendous feat he manages is: to keep your attention all the way through to the end.

Read any how-to book, read several published authors blogs and agent blogs - you are warned to stay away from books about journeys. As journeys are boring. Nothing ever happens on them. Even if there is a bit of fighting, well, you know, the characters get over it and move on.

Not in Fallen. The trick is that Fallen is plotted meticulously, within an inth of its life. But you don't actually realise this till after the fact. Every hook, every conversation, every bit of information you are given, serves to draw you further and further into the story and the two Voyagers' quest, to travel to the Great Divide to find what is there, is the lifeblood of the story.

Nomi and Ramus are two wildly different characters. Ramus (my favourite) is renowned for his knowledge and his sensible ways. He travels and goes on a Voyage to discover and come away with information and maps. He processes all of this, does more research and we realise that his quest is not for fame or fortune, but for knowledge and what that holds. He does not live a glamourous life. In fact, when we meet him he hardly has two coins to rub together. But his life is full of books, his research and his maps. Maybe he is a bit lonely but then time flies when you are so wrapped in your own research.

Nomi on the other hand is the one who glories in her discoveries - a shrewd business woman she has made a fortune exporting wine and selling the vintage beverages for silly prices to rich merchants and nobles. Her life is one of perceived leisure - she has money to spend on the finer things in life and she loves her home with all its small items which she had bought on her trips. She cannot read and isn't interested in sitting around in some dusty library, fingering old scrolls and breaking her head on musty writings.

But when she is offered a scroll by a wanderer she realises that this could be the game. The one that will not just make her fortune but will make her even better known than the first Voyager. She goes to Ramus, whom she is friends with, and puts the information to him. Ramus' researches the scroll and although he feels that it may mean the end of them, he agrees that she should buy this item. It is a mystery, a chance to find out more about the Great Divide, who knew what answers lay on the other side.

Nomi sets the plans in motion and too soon they are off on their journey with a group of experienced warriors, lead by Beko, the "captain" for this expedition.

The land they travel through is strange, with odd quirks. It may rain frogs and scorpions on you one moment or you may be followed by a wraith, the next. Personally I found this uncertainty to be disconcerting and a clear indicator in the novel that not all is what it seems and that as a reader you should be aware that this is not going to be the usual fantasy trope.

When the massive break-up between Ramus and Nomi happens - because it has to, to drive the story forward and give you a perspective on one group, then the next - I was so stunned and shocked but secretly titilated because well, this is what good writing and plotting does. Instead of sending in a man with a gun, Tim Lebbon decided to rip apart the happy status quo in the small group and thereby he upped the pace of the novel. Ramus and Nomi reveal their true selves to each other and the group and it causes a rift - an unconquerable rift. Awful things are said and the party splits. And things go utterly pearshaped as the journey turns into a race to get to the Great Divide first...

I found the writing to be very tight, the plotting a good example of how things ought to be done and the characterisations very finely drawn, even the hired hands as secondary characters were interesting and enigmatic. A thoroughly enjoyable romp by a well established author at the peak of his game - it will make an excellent beach read as it literally sweeps you along.

Highly recommended!

Find the site here with the official Tim Lebbon site here. Keep an eye out for Tim's guest blog at the beginning of May and an opportunity to win copies of Fallen.

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