Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a small-town boy from a remote village learns that he is the Chosen One, destined to fulfill The Prophecy and save the world from encroaching evil. Sound familiar? Fans of classic epic fantasy from authors Robert Jordan, David Eddings, Anne McCaffrey, and even J.K. Rowling have spun their own versions of this time-honored formula. But what happens if the prophecy fails? How would the world react when it is inevitable that the forces of evil will win? Kel Kade explores this theme in the trope-subverting, wildly entertaining Fate of the Fallen, book one of The Shroud of Prophecy series.
This is a book where the less you know about the plot, the better, so I’ll dance around the details and discuss the larger themes of the story. Kade is skilled at capturing the essence of classic fantasy, focusing on strong character work and building outwards to reveal a world full of magic, monsters, multiple spiritual planes of existence, and the whimsical nature of gods. It walks a fine line between conveying a familiar sense of comfort juxtaposed with some fresh and interesting takes that help to elevate it from other classic fantasy sagas of its kind. The nature of prophecies is called into question: can the future be changed if you know how it plays out in advance? Why bother fighting if the foretold result is inevitable?
Kade writes with a descriptive, flowing prose that breathes life into the many environments we visit. One of the most welcome aspects to the story is how often I was truly surprised by some of its choices. There were at least three separate occasions where I had to re-read the passage, asking “did that really just happen?” It’s almost as if Kade purposely lulls the reader into a false sense of ease before yanking the rug out from under us and beating us to the ground with it.
There are many more aspects to the story I’d like to discuss, but I’ll refrain so as not to spoil any of the fun. And above all, that’s just what this book is: FUN. Lots of it. I wasn’t familiar with Kade’s work before picking up this story, but she has earned herself a new fan. Fate of the Fallen is a welcome addition to the classic fantasy genre, paying homage to what has come before it while adding many new twists to subvert your expectations. It’s going to be a long wait for book two, but I’ll be along for the ride.
ARC provided by Edelweiss. Publication date is November 5th, 2019 by Tor Books.
Adam Weller, 8.5/10
Fate of the Fallen is a novel that thrives on turning tropes upside down. Kel Kade has given us a story that feels in many ways like classic fantasy. The normal tropes you’d expect exist, but they are turned almost exactly upside down. It definitely creates an interesting feel. In this regard, the book doesn’t pull any punches as it somehow manages to be bleak without feeling hopeless.
One of the most obvious things that stands out in this novel is the denial of tropes. This goes beyond questions of prophecy and heroes and the sort of things that the back cover gets you thinking about. There are moments in the story when you have to just take a moment and kind of force yourself to accept that, yes, Kade did go there, Kade did do that. While the book has many of the trappings of classic fantasy - plucky upstart hero from a small town with a prophecy behind him - the story is worked out in such fresh ways that the tropes are denied, sometimes in very in-your-face fashion. It definitely keeps things fresh and brings up a ton of questions that keep the pages turning. There is also some very cool world building in terms of the pantheon of gods we meet in this novel. I always love stories that construct unique pantheons, and Kade’s story certainly does so. In fact, I actually found the gods to be among the most interesting and engaging characters in the book. I want to know more about them and their plans and machinations. This in and of itself subverts expectations because in much classic fantasy the gods are more distant, and while they might play a role here or there in the plot, they are - generally speaking - not truly among the list of characters influencing the story directly. I loved how Kade used them in interesting ways that never felt like deus ex machina. Humor is also used to great effect throughout the novel. At times it lightens the tone, turning what could be hopelessly dire into a moment that feels real. Sometimes the humor is morbid, but I like my humor morbid, so I didn’t mind this at all.
There were a number of weaknesses to this one. Outside of the gods, the world building felt rather vanilla to me. There are nations and kings and castles and knights, but none of that is really defined very much. The world felt somewhat flat in that regard, rather than richly detailed. I tend to love world building in my fantasy, folks who care less about that would probably not notice this as it doesn’t jump off the page as a problem. It’s simply a lack of something I expect in epic fantasy. The plot also has a tendency to meander a bit in this novel. Which is too bad, because in so many other ways the book subverts classic fantasy expectations. In this sense it’s very much similar to other classic fantasy where it takes awhile for the goal to become evident and where, even after it has, it can feel like the characters are meandering about - sometimes literally. Perhaps most frustrating for me was a tendency to tell rather than show, especially when it comes to character development. For instance, we might be told that someone felt a certain way about a situation, rather than being shown they felt that way through their actions or reactions.
Fate of the Fallen is a fun start to a series with a great deal of potential. It has its share of weaknesses, but I’ll be interested to see where the series goes from here. This first volume will have extra appeal to those who love seeing tropes viciously subverted.
Calvin Park, 7/10
"Death was inevitable, but it was not the enemy. Comfort could be found in both its solitude and the embrace of the others who had fallen before him."
Fate of the Fallen first came to my attention earlier this year on Twitter. Admittedly, the rad cover by the talented Jaime Jones (who is seemingly becoming a November staple for me, what with reading The Winter Road in November as well, last year) piqued my curiosity, but then the blurb is of course what ultimately grabbed my attention. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I received this in the mail!
"It begins in a forest..."
Mathias is The Chosen One™ from his small village. You know the type. Attractive, intelligent, charming, well-liked. The prophecy has him destined as the hero that will save the world. Aaslo, his loyal best friend, is closer to him than a brother. He's no sidekick, but neither is he the center of attention. He doesn't have any desire to be the hero. He's just fine being the introverted, snarky forester who is along for the ride. That is, until he finds himself having to carry out the lofty task of a destiny left unfulfilled. Because you see, in this book The Chosen One™ is killed within the first few chapters.
That's not a spoiler! It says as much on the back cover. I swear!
Kel Kade takes a trope you've read many (MANY) times before, twisting & pulling it into unexpected directions. Things do not always go as planned. What happens when the prophecy has failed & The Chosen One™ is now a talking, severed head?
Aaslo must leave his beloved forest behind & become the hero we didn't know we needed! Burdened with a fate that seems impossible, Aaslo has to step in for Mathias & attempt to make allies along the way in order to defeat the darkness from ending the world. His fellow villagers don't appear to have much faith in him completing the prophecy, questioning whether they should just give into the evil forces in hopes of surviving or trust him, the recluse who, although skilled with an axe & sword, isn't exactly someone you would expect to save the future from crumbling. Think Samwise on the treacherous journey in Frodo's place... if Sam was grumpier. And a bit of an asshole.
Aaslo meets many characters during his journey, which was a massive part of my enjoyment. I will forever love a band of misfits! Dolt, the incompetent horse; Peck & Mory, rogue thieves; Ijen, a prophet; Teza, a former mage-in-training; Magdelay, a sorceress & Mathias's grandmother; and Myropa, the reaper. There's also many corpses! A shit ton of corpses! A deliciously alarming amount of corpses!
The story has banter, friendship, sword fights, magic & humor. All the things I love! I do wish the magic system was expanded on a bit more, however. The reader isn't given much rational backstory of the prophecy. How & why does it work? Why will the world end? With the inevitable sequel, I'm hoping this will be explored more.
The quality of Kade's writing reminded me of Anthony Ryan & his Raven's Shadow series. It's instantly appealing, has the ability to be a comfort read, yet the potential to be something wholly unique.
There are many fantasy elements that are thrown into this that just... work. Witches & wizards & prophets & foresters & mages & gods & monsters & fae &... a dragon's arm?! This book was so bloody entertaining!
It's grim, but not so grim; hopeful, but not too hopeful. After all, not all stories have happy endings.
Fate of the Fallen is an excellent start to a new fantasy series. Definitely one to look out for!
Holly Grimdragon, 9.3/10
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