“This creature was alive. It was innocent. There is no greater sacrifice than the one it was forced to make. ”
Curse of the Fallen is like a good old-fashioned potluck dinner. It has a dash of classical fantasy, a pinch of comedy, and a healthy seasoning of grimdark to top it all off. If you’re a fan of either the Witcher or Skyrim video game series, you will feel right at home in the world that H.C. Newell has created.
Neer, a young woman cursed with magic, finds herself hunted by the fanatical Order of Saro. Fearing capture, she suppresses her abilities, choosing a life of flight over harnessing her power. Yet, the desire to live freely burns within, driving her to seek a way to break the curse and reclaim her life.
Neer is accompanied by her best friend Ebbard, better known by his bardic persona Loryk. One minute, he’ll have an entire tavern roaring with laughter at his tales. The next, he’ll vanish with a pretty girl leaving others to clean up the mess. He’s the kind of guy who can talk his way out of most anything. He’s the friend you’d choose for a night of fun, but the one I’d hesitate to trust to have my back in a fight. Loryk is infuriating, captivating, utterly useless at times and I absolutely love him.
Neer and Ebbard’s unlikely fellowship expands with the arrival of Klaud, a gruff warrior with a surprisingly nimble tongue, and Avelloch, a towering brute whose gruff exterior barely contains his marshmallow heart. Their bickering banter and good-natured teasing are a constant source of comic relief. These moments of light amidst the darkness are more than just funny; they’re a reminder of the bonds that hold them together, and the precious humanity that flickers even in the darkest times.
Newell excels in both world-building and character development. Each character’s arc becomes a lens, revealing the nuanced cultural fabric of this richly imagined world. Newell’s writing weaves insightful exploration of race and societal struggles into the very fabric of these compelling characters, creating a truly immersive and thought-provoking reading experience.
While the exact rules of magic remain soft, the consequences explored by Newell are not. Using magic exacts a heavy toll, draining its wielder physically, and emotionally, leaving them with a lingering sense of unease. This intricate interplay between power and sacrifice is compelling, and I eagerly await Newell’s future exploration of this magic system and its intricate costs.
Seven ’ells… Well, at least we’re alive, yeah? Live to fight another day!
I think the plot is overall super engaging. It’s fast-paced and filled with plenty of twists and turns you don’t always see coming, like “Mange” (a reference only true fans will get). All this builds up to a truly satisfying climactic ending. I won’t say too much to avoid spoilers, but Newell’s way of revealing more of each character’s past during this part of the story is both magical and emotionally impactful.
While I personally adore fast-paced books, I can understand how some readers might find the overall pacing a bit much. The constant barrage of traps, ambushes, and attacks should understandably take its toll on the characters, yet they press on almost as if nothing happened. In light of this, my one critique for the author would be to consider slowing down the pace just a tad, allowing us to delve deeper into the characters’ minds and experience the emotional impact of these events.
Ultimately, I enjoyed this book far more than I anticipated. I believe readers of this genre will get hooked fast and yearn to devour the first three books back-to-back – and honestly, I can’t blame them. If H.C. Newell wasn’t on your radar before, she should be now. This rising star undoubtedly has the potential to make major waves in the fantasy genre in the near future.
Still not convinced? Check out what some of the other team members had to say about this book.