BOOK REVIEW: “The Fallen, The Greatest Sin, Book 1” by Lee French and Erik Kort

A well-written adventure woven with layers of plot and salted with persuasive characters

a well-written adventure with a compelling central character

This is a story woven with layers of plot and salted with persuasive characters. Life in the clan is vivid and the realm of the Fallen is intriguing. The underlying theme of the series on the one hand, and the main character on the other, are compelling enough that you’re saying, “Where’s the next book?” as soon as you come to the last page.

The title confused me at first. “The Fallen, The Greatest Sin”, what was that about? Overeating? Trashy romance? Burning fossil fuels? It could mean just about anything. And I didn’t know if the main character had enough substance to catch my interest. A woman with a feisty personality and a pink feather embedded in her skull, sprouting out of her forehead?

I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it. Fortunately, I was persuaded to give it a shot.

The framework for the series appealed to me. Something had gone wrong with the world. In ages past, a great sin was committed and the tribes were cast out and separated from one another; their Creator, hiding and silent. Each group had a different tradition about what the crime had been and clues to repairing the breech. And someone had been gathering fallen people from different parts of the world into a secret society dedicated to piecing the puzzle together and restoring the lost world.

Chavali, the woman with the feather, immediately takes center stage and remains there, carrying the tale from beginning to end, and winning you over entirely by the charisma of her personality.

As the Seer of her clan, a distinct people group of a couple hundred that lives and travels caravan style, Chavali uses her ability to read minds and occasionally prophesy to earn money for the clan. But the gift, while it earns her respect and service, is isolating and tedious. The man who loves her, whom she would’ve loved too, is a burden to her with his possessive and lustful ideas. She can’t, in fact, let anyone touch her unless she’s willing to be swamped by their thoughts—which would exhaust even the most generous soul.

She comes across selfish and petty at first, but you soon realize that she has set herself apart for the clan. Her love for them, her courage and intuition, and skill at reading and manipulating people, make up for her quick temper and childish habits. She’s watching over them like a spiritual guardian and when the time comes to protect them, she’ll do whatever it takes.

I appreciated the writing. The fantasy world seems familiar enough that you don’t feel lost while retaining an original, creative quality. The characters are strong and real, and the magic seems bound by understandable limits, not unexpected or unreasonable. Chavali is well thought out, clearly painted. The authors portrayed her intuition seamlessly in their descriptions and used clever language devices to capture the foreignness of her accent.

How interesting that a seer who foretells the future states that “the future was fluid” and believes “everyone has a free will”, and that becomes the pivotal moment in the drama! Far from being at the mercy of the aggressors or the spirits, she drives the story as an independent.

“Better to choose your own fate than to be a slave to someone else’s choice,” she says. Then she proceeds to do something “that the spirits would never expect.”

That’s when I sat up and decided, I love this.

Suzanne Hagelin

A word to parents: There are a few discrete sexual references. Some of the descriptions of nightmares, fighting, death scenes, and spiritual forces, could be disturbing for adolescents with vivid minds and are unsuitable for children. This is purely a work of fantasy, however religious families may be concerned about some of the supernatural aspects in the story.

Author Erik Kort on FaceBook

Author Lee French’s Blog

BOOK REVIEW: “Adaline” by Denise Kawaii

Can a child who looks exactly like everyone else survive and develop as an individual? An intense story with vivid imagery and layers of meaning.

A powerful, thought-provoking tale

“Adaline” is told in what appears at first to be a simple, linear way. As it unfolds, the original world and vivid imagery add layers of meaning and build not just a physical world but a psychological one as well. Kawaii has something to say and we should listen.

Adaline itself is a construct of seemingly identical clones, raising, working, serving, and running their world along strict guidelines. Entering the institution with one of the boys, the reader learns and experiences the rigid life with him. No one has a name—they are numbered according to their position in the queue of healthy births—and there is no room for creative or unique expression. The only differentiation made between the clones, after a season of testing and training, is a general classification that slots them toward work categories. The daily routines are designed to weed out any individuality that would threaten the system which exists, apparently, to maintain itself. An excessively totalitarian environment that governs more than daily lives, it’s designed and succeeds in crushing distinctive thought and personality.

Is there more to a person than the physical body? Can a child who looks exactly like everyone else and is being controlled the same as every other living being actually develop as an individual?

Kawaii’s resounding answer is ‘yes’. Thousands of identical clones did not lead to identical personalities or choices.

One man, a teacher, identifies and nurtures the boy’s inner world. Kawaii vividly captures the impact of true mentoring, especially in the absence of parenting, as well as affirming the value of having a will strong enough to survive a hostile environment.

The story is told well, building suspense, keeping you guessing, and dealing a strong finish. And though I’m satisfied with the ending, it left me with a multitude of unanswered questions and high expectations for the sequel.

“Adaline” is rich with thought-provoking ideas. It would be a valuable tool for parents, teachers or mentors, to read and discuss with adolescents—although it gets intense in a few places and some of the images may be upsetting for sensitive youth with visual minds.

Educators: FORGET dated, so-called classics like “Catcher in the Rye” or “Lord of the Flies” that no longer have the edge that spoke in the previous century. You should be assigning books like this one, that speak to the deepest questions and concerns young people have today.

Kawaii deserves to be discovered and snapped up by a major publisher. She’s about to win a place on my short list of “I’ll read anything by this author”.

I love this book.

BOOK REVIEW: “The Dragon Tax” by Madison Keller

A lighthearted adventure, perfect for an afternoon of coffee and reading

Sometimes you just want a light story to while away an afternoon; preferably a well written one. Perusing book tables at a con recently, the “Dragon Tax” cover caught my attention. I picked it up and decided the description on the back had potential. The main character, a renowned dragon slayer, is ‘suspected of aiding and abetting the escape of a dragon”. Cracking it open and reading a couple pages piqued my curiosity enough to buy it, and I’m glad I did.

Sybil Dragonsbane is hired by a king to demand taxes from a dragon. Magic potions are the only thing that persuade her to attempt it, since challenging a dragon generally meant death for someone. But deeper intrigues are at work and she finds herself scrambling to elude the threats mounting against her. It’s an upbeat caper that progresses to a cleverly turned ending and sets the stage for more conflicts and escapades in future books.

Keller brings you quickly into a world that feels very familiar in spite of the dragons and magic, and paints a believable hero whose wits and fighting skills are balanced by respect for human life. Book covers often promise and can’t deliver, but “Dragon Tax” was exactly what it seemed to be: a fun adventure!

Note—use of English is good and grammar is clean. Sex is referred to once without description but the context may not be suitable for adolescents. Some violence is part of the story but is handled reasonably.

BOOK REVIEW: “A Giraffe in the Room” by Denise Kawaii

“A Giraffe in the Room” is a poignant tale of an aging man that tells its story simply and beautifully. Exploring the loss of memory and capability from within, through the eyes of the person living it, Denise Kawaii writes with insight and compassion. Memories of the early years are the framework and lifeline for Stanley as he goes from one confused scene to the next in a lonely, distressing dream that never ends. The reader knows only what he knows. The author captures the impression made by nursing staff instructions particularly well. I found myself trying to decipher it much the same way Stanley did.

The old man repeats to himself the same reassurances he once shared with his daughter, making a connection between the shadows of the past and the stark reality of the present. The words become more meaningful as the story progresses and in the end, the reader may find it comforting, as well.

Kawaii reaches out to the reader as an equal, offering a new measure of understanding to those who want to go beyond just processing their own loss of someone they care about.

Individuals matter, their lives, dreams and thoughts, have value, even when they can’t share them.

If you are going through a season where someone you care about is loosing brain function, this book will be a comfort. 

Suzanne Hagelin