Fallen: Another outstanding addition to the Noreela mythos

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Tim Lebbon Noreela 3. FallenFallen by Tim Lebbon

Set 4000 years before the Dusk and Dawn duology, Fallen takes readers back to a different Noreela, one that is still dangerous and familiar due to the inclusion of tumblers, skull ravens, the always mysterious Cantrass Angels, Ventgorian wine, fodder and other familiarities, but this version of the world is not nearly as despairing and still possesses a sense of hope — of potential. In this time period, much of Noreela remains uncharted and is a playground for the Voyagers whose vocation is to discover the undiscovered. For the Voyagers their greatest challenge, their Mt. Everest if you will, is the Great Divide in the south, a vertical cliff that rises miles into the sky and extends from east to west seemingly forever. According to legend, the Great Divide marks the end of the world and no one who has Voyaged there has ever returned. For Voyagers Ramus Rheel and Nomi Hyden — friends as well as competitors — all that changes when they meet a fellow Voyager who has not only survived the Great Divide, but has brought back evidence of an unknown civilization… and a Sleeping God…

Ramus, Nomi, and a group of Serians (hired warriors from Mancoseria who attain adulthood by killing a seethe-gator) start out Voyaging to the Great Divide together, but because of the complex relationship existing between Nomi and Ramus involving hidden feelings and deep betrayals, the party is quickly fractured into two groups who are now competing against each other to be the first to reach the top of the cliff. From here, each Voyager faces their own set of perils and complications as they journey to the Great Divide, but the real danger is what they discover on top of the cliff and the decisions they end up making that impacts the future of Noreela.

Like the author’s previous Noreela stories, Fallen is all about the setting and Tim takes full advantage of the plot to let his imagination roam wild. So as the Voyagers travel from Long Marrakash, across the Pavissa Steppes, into the uncharted lands before the Great Divide, up the cliff, and into the world above the clouds, readers are introduced to all sorts of interesting wildlife and phenomena like squirm-storms that rain down lizards and insects, march wisps, Rokarian traps, gray people who feed on unhappy memories, a place where certain berries and herbs will make you high, and a forgotten race. There’s much more of course, but the joy of reading one of Tim Lebbon’s Noreela tales is discovering what new surprises the author has conjured up.

Character-wise, Fallen features a really small cast — basically the two narrators Ramus and Nomi, the six Serians, and a few minor players — which is helpful because even though the novel is self-contained, Lebbon still has time to fully develop his characters. For instance, each Mancoserian possesses his or her own individual personality while the relationship that the two Voyagers have going on is explored in all of its strange complexity including conflicting feelings of friendship, envy, disappointment, rivalry, and even love, not to mention the lying, treachery, and a fatal disease that allows Ramus to experience Nomi’s nightmares. In short, my only complaint about the characters was one scene between the Voyagers — when the group splits into two — that felt like watching a bad soap opera.

Of the plot, Fallen is essentially a quest novel that takes readers from Point A to Point B. Despite this conventional setup though, the journey itself is fascinating because of Noreela, the story is excellently paced, and the ending is just mind-blowing. Specifically, when Fallen shifts to the top of the Great Divide, Mr. Lebbon really turns up the heat on his characters and forces them down a dark and bloody path toward events that are shocking, tragic, and haunting. In other words, don’t expect any happy endings… And, as a bonus to those who are familiar with Noreela, the book’s finale marks the beginning of the Kang Kang mountain range and The Blurring which is a really nice touch.

I’m a huge fan of Tim Lebbon’s Noreela universe. Not surprisingly, I had pretty high expectations for Fallen and apart from a couple of minor gripes — namely the novel’s simplistic story and certain fantasy conventions — my expectations were met quite satisfactorily. To sum up, Fallen is just another outstanding addition to the Noreela mythos, and every time I visit this terrifying yet fascinating world, the harder it becomes to tear myself away.


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ROBERT THOMPSON (on FanLit's staff July 2009 — October 2011) is the creator and former editor of Fantasy Book Critic, a website dedicated to the promotion of speculative fiction. Before FBC, he worked in the music industry editing Kings of A&R and as an A&R scout for Warner Bros. Besides reading and music, Robert also loves video games, football, and art. He lives in the state of Washington with his wife Annie and their children Zane and Kayla. Robert retired from FanLit in October 2011 after more than 2 years of service. He doesn't do much reviewing anymore, but he still does a little work for us behind the scenes.

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