The novel opens on the exiled Emperor Lannes. This larger-than-life figure is drawn in the likeness of Napoleon, exiled to Elba. In fact, many of the nationalities and geo-political entities are clearly adaptations of real-world cultures, with even a few historical figures peppering the pages of the Fall of Erlon. The genre almost felt like historical fantasy, taking real events and cultures and adapting them to a fantasy setting. Lannes is Napoleon, Nelson is Lord Nelson. Erlon is France. Brun is England. Wahria is the Holy Roman Empire. The Horde are the Russians. I found it interesting as the story progressed trying to make connections between the novel and history. I truly enjoyed this aspect of the novel and thought that it lent it a unique ambiance which I haven’t read in any other fantasy novels.
While the story opens on the Emperor, it is his daughter Elisa, the Dauphin figure who is our protagonist. She and the other six or seven POV characters all get plenty of air time to develop their personalities. They were all realistic and interesting to various degrees, but none of them really jumped off the page. I noticed along the way that it seemed like none of them had lives outside of this conflict, no one missed anyone who wasn’t in their scenes or had goals unrelated to the events of the story. Flat is too strong of a word, but for all of the time spent in their heads, a little less repetition of their worries and conflicts and a little more variety would have made them feel more dynamic.
The opening of this book was very intriguing and it immediately captured my attention. I tore threw the first third of the narrative and felt a strong sense of building tension and narrative progress. Unfortunately, the middle of the book lost hold of that sense of momentum. The pages of the Fall of Erlon are dominated by large passages of introspection. For me it was just too much of the story. Five or six pages would go by with a very basic scene set, say a person riding a horse, but the entire passage would be that person musing about their problems, often quite repetitively. More than once, several of these scenes would come in a row, making for stretches of navel gazing that started to lose my attention.
Overall, I think the author has a good voice, as I said, the early chapters of this novel were very compelling. The action scenes were also good, and the characterization was solid, if not spectacular. I think if this novel trimmed down the long passages without any direct conflict or action, this book would skyrocket in my estimation. Those who enjoy a slower burn, or the sort of character driven novel that dwells internally, delving directly into long passages of the character thoughts, will enjoy this novel.
All-in-all, the Fall of Erlon was unique, with very interesting historical parallels. While I greatly enjoyed parts of it, the slow pace eventually wore me down. The novel does do a great job of setting up a series with high stakes and a grand, sweeping narrative. If the author can rein in some of the meandering scenes, the series overall still has great potential.
Final Score: 6