A good fantasy novel will have some familiar archetypes that avid readers of the genre know well. There are the endless battles between Good and Evil, Lightness and Dark, a Dark Lord and a scrappy Hero. Mix in a harrowing quest, a magical system, and a cast of mythical creatures, and you can create an epic novel that grips the reader to the very end. Good writers are able to reinvent these concepts in new ways again and again to keep fantasy readers hooked. Kel Kade presents us with a trope-subverting version of those archetypes in her new novel, Fate of the Fallen: Shroud of Prophecy (Book One).
“What happens when the path of good and right, the triumph of light over darkness, the only path to salvation...fails?” This is the question Kade poses for us in the prologue of the book. I was instantly intrigued at the concept of evil winning out over good. I have come to expect heartbreak and tragedy as I travel along my fantasy journey, but however messy the journey becomes, I always expect the heroes to win the day.
We are thrown immediately into a medievalesque world where a young handsome hero Mathais and his faithful friend Aaslo are bantering in the forest. We quickly learn the depth of their bond, and the book continually reinforces the lengths that “brothers in all things” will go to in order to honor that friendship. It isn’t long before our main characters have left the quaint life they once led, where their greatest worry was whom to take to the next town dance and are now venturing off into foreign lands. The duo are taking on a seemingly doomed quest to save humankind. In Kade’s world, the Greek-like gods take an active role in the manipulation of human lives. These ethereal beings exist in their own microcosms of the universe he created; and the lines between the realms seem less static than in other fantasy novels. As a reader you have to pay close attention to disentangle the many varied names and locations that are thrown your way as Kade gallops rather quickly through book one of this series. There are a few abrupt transitions that left me going back to reread the previous page, but I do not think that this was an accident. I believe Kade was intentionally trying to subvert the typical experience of the fantasy genre.
She wove a tapestry of fascinating characters who were easy to love and that easily pulled me through the pages. In my opinion this book’s greatest strength is the witty banter that exists between its characters. There is a relatable and endearing comradery between Mathais and Aaslo that had me wondering if my best friend would go to such epic lengths for me? I finished the last page and was surprised to find myself so committed to seeing this journey to its end. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of book two, to hear more of Mathais and Aaslo’s banter and to see what other surprises Kade can conjure.
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