“This Child is not the chosen one. She is a demon to be destroyed.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but the moment I saw this alluring cover I knew I needed to discover the story hidden inside. Within these pages, you will find a badass female lead with a crippling curse, dangerous trials, both familiar and completely new intriguing magical creatures, religious zealots, delightful friendships, and a dash of romance amidst all the chaos and destruction. In other words, Curse of the Fallen is the fast-paced dark fantasy that you didn’t know you needed!
A couple of years before the start of this story, Nerana (or Neer) was captured and cursed by the zealous High Priest of the religious Order of Saro for her innate magical powers. Ever since then, she has been living in hiding and desperately trying to seek a way to get rid of this curse. Together with some unlikely allies and her best friend, the bard Loryk, she embarks upon a quest to regain her freedom, and she will stop at nothing to get her revenge.
This story truly hits the ground running and the action just never lets up. I usually tend to prefer a bit of a slower introduction, but these characters immediately captured my heart and I was fully hooked from page one. Neer gave me major Ciri vibes (from The Witcher 3) and I loved that she quickly proved herself to be a true force to be reckoned with. Though, as much as I loved our fierce and spunky main protagonist, I have to admit that it was the side characters who absolutely stole the show for me.
Her best friend, the devilishly charming bard Loryk, was just a true shining light in this story and their amusing dynamic was probably my favourite aspect of the entire book. From the very first page, you can just feel that these two have a long history together and I immediately believed in their incredibly strong friendship. Their teasing, bickering, and witty banter provided so much comedic relief in this otherwise relatively dark story, and I absolutely loved that.
There are also some unlikely allies that join on their quest and I loved how they were all driven by their own motivations and had their own compelling stories that we slowly got to uncover. They provided some nice insights into the different races and diverse cultures of these lands, which, together with all the travelling, made this world feel real, vast and lived-in.
Also, the romance element is only a very minor part of the overall story, but I do just want to say that the elvish Avelloch gives Sarah J. Maas’ bat boys a run for their money.
The plot is super engaging and filled with exciting twists and turns, though the frenetic pacing did sometimes become a little overwhelming for me. Attacks, pursuits, ambushes, traps, and all other kinds of madness and mayhem keep coming onto Neer’s path, but she is determined to just continue fighting on.
I personally wouldn’t have minded some more moments to catch a breath and to see these characters process all the traumatic events that they have to endure. Also, while I was very intrigued by Neer’s magical abilities, this is a very soft magic system and I sometimes struggled to grasp the limits of her powers.
That said, the quick pacing combined with the smooth and approachable writing style does give this book that wonderful bingeable quality. All the action is admittedly very well written and I really liked that Newell doesn’t pull any punches and isn’t afraid to get dark, bloody and gory. Also, she continued to surprise me with her wild imagination, evident in the inclusion of a nudist hippie community and horrifying reanimated corpses. Needless to say, this was truly one hell of a wild ride from start to finish.
I had an absolute blast with this story and I may or may not have started the sequel already, because what else was I supposed to do after that brutal ending of book 1?
This story contains all the best and most beloved elements of traditional high fantasy, yet it also puts a refreshing twist on familiar tropes and has a ton of exciting new elements mixed in. Curse of the Fallen is the perfect book to pick up if you want a fast-paced and dark high fantasy full of action, magic, friendship, banter, and the occasional gut punch or two. I can’t recommend it highly enough!