Hero at the Fall

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my review of these novels [here] and [here].

Hero at the Fall was written by Alwyn Hamilton and is due for release in February 2018. The book forms the final part of the Rebel of the Sands Trilogy and is preceded by Rebel of the Sands (2016) and Traitor to the Throne (2017). As this novel carries on directly where previous instalments leave off, I’d recommend reading them in sequence if you want to fully appreciate what is going on.

The rebellion is in pieces. So many of their number died during the Auranzeb celebrations and the Sultan still unknowingly holds the Rebel Prince as a prisoner. To make matters worse, he has used the slain djinn’s fire to conjure a dome around Izman, trapping the surviving rebels inside. Amani knows that they need to escape the city and find their missing friends. Every moment they remain puts them at risk of being found by the merciless Abdals.

If they can leave the city, Amani knows that they still have a chance of winning the war. Stories about the Rebel Prince and his closest allies are already beginning to spread. As the Sultan has allied himself with the magic-hating Gallan army, people who respect the magic of desert are already starting to rally against him. If Amani can only get to Iliaz, she is sure that she can still convince Prince Bilal to lend her his army, even if it means giving him the Demdji bride that he craves.

However, even with an army at their back, the biggest problem is still the Abdals. In order to defeat the clay soldiers and destroy the barrier, Amani knows that she must find a way to disable the Sultan’s machine. However, the machine is not designed to be easily turned off. If she is to destroy it, who knows what will happen to the supernatural fire that burns within. To save Miraji from the Sultan, Amani may be forced to sacrifice herself…

If you’ve read my previous reviews of this series, you’ll remember that I was a little disappointed by Traitor to the Throne. While it wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t as well paced, innovative and exciting as Rebel of the Sands. I’m pleased to say that Hero at the Fall went a long way towards rekindling my love of Miraji. Amani is finally free of the harem and has the full used of her Demdji powers once again, but the game has changed. It no longer feels as though the rebels have the upper hand. Many have now been either killed or captured, and the Sultan is more powerful than ever.

The novel is very quick to find its feet and its pace is relentless. While Traitor to the Throne was quite a slow-moving novel, in this book it felt as though Amani was really trying to make up for lost time. Her journey takes her from one end of Miraji to the other, visiting locations both old and new as she tries to rescue Ahmed and build an army.

If I had to criticise anything about the pace of the novel, it would simply be that I thought that things happened a bit too fast. There is no real sense of time passing in this story as the journey is never the true focus. Amani and her friends move from town to town instantly between chapters, with little indication of how long it took them to get there. While this certainly made the novel more action packed, it meant that less time was spent building character or giving the reader time to appreciate the stunning new locations, which included mountain prisons and long-buried shrines of the First People.

Yet the world-building was still amazing. Now that Amani has been set loose in the world again, some of the feel of the Wild West has started to return. While these elements didn’t feel quite as strong as they did in Rebel of the Sands, I enjoyed the return to Dustwalk and the fact that there was plenty more time for gun-slinging. Yet the thing I enjoyed most about the setting was the increased focus on the art of storytelling.

The series has always felt heavily inspired by Middle Eastern folklore like 1000 Arabian Nights and The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor, but this novel focuses on how such legends are formed. As stories of the rebels’ adventures spreads across the country, these are changed and embellished to make their often-fantastic adventures seem all the more wondrous. While these stories are largely fiction, each contain a kernel of truth and causes the public to warm to the Rebel Prince and want to be part of his revolution. In this way it does a fantastic job of showing the true power of storytelling.

The climax of the novel is deeply satisfying, if a little saccharine in places. Of course, I’m not going to spoil it here but I did think that the story ended at precisely the right point. It brings Amani’s tale to a neat conclusion, but at the same time it left plenty of room for further stories to be woven into the world. And, in a way, I hope that there are many more stories. Miraji is a truly wonderful setting, built on a mixture of magic and iron, and I think the desert has plenty of scope for future adventures.

In terms of characterisation, this book is a lot stronger than Traitor to the Throne. Amani goes from strength to strength in this novel, learning more about herself and the nature of her power as she is forced to make a number of difficult choices. The way that she handles these life-or-death situations really do speak in volumes about her character. While Amani always acts with the best of intentions, sometimes fate does not play out the way that she wants. Her final choice in the novel really did hit me hard, and truly showed how much Amani has changed since she left Dustwalk.

As the Demdji’s numbers are reduced, this book also gave a lot more opportunity to get to know the survivors. However, I did still think that the secondary characters were lacking something. This trilogy really is Amani’s story, and so the primary focus is always on her and her relationship with Jin. Because of this, none of the other rebels get much of a look in. Most of the survivors are imprisoned for the first two-thirds of this story and those that are not still don’t get a lot of time in the spotlight. Because of this disconnection, I didn’t really feel much for them when they were put in danger.

Anyhow, despite my minor gripes, I truly enjoyed reading this novel. While it’s perhaps a little weaker than Rebel of the Sands, it still gripped me from its very first word and ended on the perfect note. On the whole, this is really a trilogy that I would recommend to all fantasy fans. I look forward to seeing what Hamilton will write next.

Hero at the Fall is due for release on 1st February and is currently available to pre-order on Amazon.co.uk

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Sobeks 2017 – Part 4 | Arkham Reviews

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