Review: “The Fallen,” Erik Kort & Lee French

Pros: Fabulous characters and worldbuilding; engaging
Rating: 5 out of 5

I love Erik Kort and Lee French’s The Fallen (The Greatest Sin Book 1) so much that I desperately want to turn it into roleplaying game fodder. Failing that, I’ll at least have to read the whole series! I found this book thanks to a StoryBundle that happened to contain the first two volumes, and these alone were worth the cost of the entire bundle.

Chavali is the Seer of a nomadic clan of people. She can truly speak prophecy once in a long while, but she does most of her “fortune-telling” via a finely-honed skill at reading people combined with her ability to read people’s thoughts when she touches them skin-to-skin. She’s 25 years old. She can create illusions, she can’t see colors, and she has a bodyguard, Keino, who is too intent on having her as his own. She likes him, but doesn’t want to be with someone who views her as a possession to be won. Her clan would say she’s “difficult,” and she acknowledges this is the case, but she does care about those around her. She just has a very blunt and rather self-centered way of handling the world. When a man comes to Chavali seeking to use her prophetic gifts to his own end, her entire life is turned upside-down, and she finds she must rely on the aid of Outsiders.

Chavali liked this man, in the same way she liked a rabbit who jumped into the snare on purpose so she could have dinner.

I was actually surprised to go back to my notes and realize just how much of this book was taken up by worldbuilding and character building, because it’s so ‘alive’ that it never felt in any way motionless or dull. I was engaged from the very first page. In particular I love both the building up of Chavali’s clan and of her personality. She is super confident, somewhat self-centered, and very sure of her place in things, all of which make total sense for her upbringing, background, and gifts. She also happily occupies the children with folk tales, shares a good relationship with her family, and doesn’t ask for more than her due. She’s smart, talented, and delightfully imperfect. In short, she’s one of the better strong female characters I’ve seen in a while.

By the way, the authors do a great job of avoiding the stereotype of drifters-as-grifters. While the clan entertains and sells things to make money wherever they go, they don’t engage in thievery. They have a rich folklore and many generations of traditions by which they live. Also, when Chavali is forced to go to Outsiders for help, the worldbuilding doesn’t stop. Everything going on beyond the clan has had just as much thought put into it.

I’ll leave the rest of the tale for you to find out on your own, because it’s gripping, enchanting, and well worth your time. I gather there are currently five books in this series, and I plan to read them all!

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