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Dispatch from the Freewilds Book Review: Curse of the Fallen by H. C. Newell

(This review was originally written on October 12, 2021)

Dispatch from the Freewilds

Book Review

Curse of the Fallen

by H. C. Newell

The Gist:

A harrowing adventure unfolds for the fiercely determined Nerana (aka Neer, our protagonist). In H.C. Newell’s Curse of the Fallen, readers will be introduced to a world where magic is a terrifying force permeating each inch of the world, and dangers lurk just around every next turn our heroes take.

The Book:

Written by H.C. Newell, Curse of the Fallen was published just this year, in 2021, but there is a bit of a timelessness to this fantastic tale. The characters are strongly developed, the pace is quick (at times breakneck-fast), and it deserves saying that though this is but one tale the author has told in her original Fallen Light setting and the beginning of what will hopefully grow into a far-reaching series of further stories in this world, Curse of the Fallen stands well enough to be undertaken on its own.

The Plot:

Neer is blessed with magic. It is her birthright, but in this world that merely puts a target on her back and a price on her head. The dogma of the day labels those like Neer, marked by a mystical legacy not necessarily of their own choosing, as a pariah to be hunted down.

The Order of Saro would see Neer perish, and the world is full of those who will never relent in their search for her. Tired of living a life of constant fear, Neer is eager to rid herself of the novel’s eponymous curse, hoping that her search for a cure may finally be at hand.

However, chasing after this hope of a life free from the dreadful plagues and burdens of her magical nature involves a journey filled with all manner of threat, danger and peril. Accompanied by a brave and loyal few, Neer defies her fears, pushing ever onward, clinging to a dream of a better life.

The Critique:

Let me begin by saying that there is a genuine sense that the author knows where all this is heading, and it is a good feeling, knowing that you're in good hands.

Even if there are times when the pace of the novel is so fast, and information is being delivered so quickly that it may necessitate going back and re-reading a chapter here and there, it is totally worth the effort in the end to do so. I like reading a book a second time to seek out little hints and subtle nuance with the benefit of hindsight, but in this case I had to do so to come to grips with the scope and magnificence of the world H.C. Newell is introducing me to.

Curse of the Fallen is precisely my cup of tea. A fantasy world steeped (pun intended) in terrific lore and a heightened sense of the potent and terrifying paradigm shift that magic would necessarily represent.

As a writer working within the same genre, more or less, I appreciate the craftsmanship and care on display in the Fallen Light setting. The author endeavors to usher readers through a myriad of fantastic ideas, and this book was obviously written with a lot of heart.

The Verdict:

Let me clarify that this is the first book that I will have ever reviewed since I became a published author, myself. I wanted to begin my book reviewing career with a story that I found myself drawn toward and inspired by.

I took a break from this book because I recognized that H.C. Newell and I share a lot of the same sentiments when it comes to the role of magic in a world such as this. It is a defining factor, a terrifying force capable of driving people to extreme lengths, either to harness its power for themselves or, in the case of the dogmatic and zealous antagonists of Curse of the Fallen, to see it and its practitioners hunted down and wiped from the face of the world.

So, to prevent myself from being influenced and offset the chance that I might inadvertently allow my story to become derivative of this book and its world, I set aside this novel, determined to pick it back up and begin giving it its fair due after completing and publishing my own debut novel, Freewilds – The Cult & the Constable. I made it a priority thereafter not only to read this story cover to cover, but to make it the first book I gave a serious review.

H.C. Newell has a big, bright future in this genre. I am a fan… of the book, the Fallen Light setting, and the author.

Curse of the Fallen is not a perfect book, but that does not mean that it wasn’t a tremendously satisfying read. I highly recommend dropping a few bucks to grab a digital copy of the book at the very least, but it is worth noting that the cover art here is gorgeous. Thematically brilliant and pertinent to the story and its hero’s plight, the cover art alone may be worth the cost of grabbing a physical copy. It will look great on a bookshelf if that’s something that matters to you.

The Rating:

On a scale of 1-5, I would happily and confidently rate Curse of the Fallen a solid FOUR out of FIVE. Bump that scale up to 1-10, and it’s a NINE out of TEN, for me.

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