It takes some confidence to have your main character stabbed, shot and left bleeding out in the street before chapter one is even over. Fortunately, Fallen Empire is deserving of that confidence. Managing multiple plot-lines and points of view with ease, it’s a straightforward and highly enjoyable read.
That opening chapter serves more than just to put Vyder in jeopardy. The eventual solution, which involves a nature spirit becoming bound to Vyder in order to revive him, has unintended consequences. Gorgoroth, the spirit in question hates humanity for its mistreatment of the natural world and immediately begins sending giant spiders and wolves against his home city.
Although Vyder is the mainstay, there are a number of other POV characters. The first, Miriam, is Vyder’s ostensible slave, although really more of a maternal figure. With Vyder dying, Miriam does whatever she can to save him but soon finds that most in the area are more concerned with her being out after the curfew or automatically believe she is somehow involved. This, plus her own remembrances, show how this society treats those of a lower station.
Gorgoroth’s attacks against the city are mainly seen through the eyes of Lord Tork, another of the POV characters. As Commander of the King’s Own regiment, he becomes the de facto leader of the city’s forces as the animal attacks increases. These battle scenes, which range from individual fights to cavalry charges; are exceptional, a testament to the author’s military experience. Realistic and gritty, but without overdoing the carnage or glorifying in it. One of Tork’s best moments is in the aftermath of one battle as he oversees the funeral of his fallen men.
The remaining main POV character doesn’t appear until three-quarters of the way through the book and, I will admit, at first this threw me a little. But Ahitika quickly becomes a strong character in her own right; perhaps as skilled a fighter as Vyder but with even fewer loyalties. I expect to see more of her in the sequel.
One of the things I liked most is that even by the end of the book, there is still a lot to learn about Vyder. We know he is a formidable fighter, as evidenced by that opening chapter and he is often referred to as an assassin but we don’t know why he is given that particular appellation. He is known (and apparently trusted) by the king and he has a house in a wealthy area of the city but his neighbours dismiss him as an interloper and we never learn how he earned these things. I hope that the next volume delves into Vyder’s back-story more.
All in all, Fallen Empire is an excellent read, with an obviously well-planned world with plenty still to be revealed.
4.5 out of 5 Nature Spirits