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Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Fall by Tracy Townsend (reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)

Order The Fall over HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Tracy Townsend is the author of The Nine and The Fall (books 1 and 2 in the Thieves of Fate series), a monthly columnist for the feminist sf magazine Luna Station Quarterly, and an essayist for Uncanny Magazine. She holds a master's degree in writing and rhetoric from DePaul University and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from DePauw University, a source of regular consternation when proofreading her credentials. She is the former chair of the English department at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, an elite public boarding school, where she teaches creative writing and science fiction and fantasy literature. She has been a martial arts instructor, a stage combat and accent coach, and a short-order cook for houses full of tired gamers. Now she lives in Bolingbrook, Illinois with two bumptious hounds, two remarkable children, and one very patient husband.



FORMAT/INFO: The Fall is 472 pages long. This is the second volume of the Thieves of Fate series.

The book was published by Pyr on June 11th, 2019 and it's available as an e-book, paperback, and audiobook. Cover art and design are provided by  Adam S. Doyle.


ANALYSIS: The Fall expands Townsend’s alternate universe where science has become a religion and people see God as a great experimenter. Rowena Downshire is one of The Nine - current test subjects of the God who assesses all creation based on their behavior. The problem? No one knows the criteria of the evaluation. Also, scholars assume all nine subjects are human, but why wouldn’t the creator inspect all creation?

In The Fall both Aigamuxa (lethal eye-heeled creatures) and Lanyani (sentient,  mobile, and murderous trees) get their POV chapters. We get an insight into their cultures and aspirations. Where The Nine portrayed Aigamuxa as heartless monsters, The Fall casts a sympathetic eye on them and their society helping readers to understand them better. It turns out they differ from each other, and, as humans, have varied personalities, beliefs, and emotions. They don’t lack intelligence, but their society emphasizes strength and violence rather than careful planning and philosophy. That’s why Aigamuxa fall victim to cunning Lanyani who make them pawns in their plan to purge humanity and show the Creator that they are above judgment.

Lanyani don’t resemble the conventional high fantasy arboreal creatures like Dryads or Ents. Their bodies and ways of communicating are alien. Their outlook on the world has nothing in common with our perception of the natural order. I applaud Townsend for creating such terrifying but also relatable (in a way) creatures. They play the role of villains, but it’s not that simple. Nothing in The Fall is that simple or one-dimensional. Even Bishop Metteron’s machinations and nefarious schemes may have a valid cause.

Speaking of the creatures, magnify The Fall’s cover and look at it. A thing of beauty. Adam S. Doyle did a spectacular job in his presentation of The Fall’s characters and setting. The book takes us to new regions of the world, to Nippon where we can observe a Shogunate, logicians in actions, and clockwork constructs serving people. A well-rounded cast of secondary characters is diverse and include a non-binary character who plays an important role in tightening the plot.

Rowena, the Alchemist and Anselm play a key role in the story, but other characters introduced in The Nine (Haadiyaa Gammon, Philip Chalmers, Beatrice Earnshaw, Clara Downshire) get strong developments as well. To simplify it, our main characters travel with Chalmers to Grand Library in Nippon (a steampunk Japan of sorts) to decipher its mysteries, while Gammon and her team try to make sense of Lanyani’s schemes. Both arcs are emotional and surprising.

Comparing sequels to original stories is unfair but also inevitable. I always expect the sequel to top the previous entry in the series and get pumped before reading it. When things don’t develop the way I wanted, they annoy me. Where The Nine grabbed my attention from the first page, I needed more time to get invested in The Fall. The book suffers from pacing issues caused by intricate, but sometimes too detailed, world-building. As impressive as this world is, I felt there was too much informations to process. My other gripe with the story concerns Rowena. I loved her in The Nine, but couldn’t relate to her in The Fall most of the time. She’s still herself, a tough street-rat with a foul mouth, but she lost some of her charm. What else? Well, we get some pieces of information that set the table for the things yet to come. Don’t expect everything will serve something immediately or to have all questions answered.

But these are just minor complaints. When things finally start to come together, and stakes grow you can’t help but admire a complex intrigue. Also, the ending. The Fall finishes with a nasty, but also exciting cliffhanger that made me crave book three. I’m desperately hoping that this book sells well enough to ensure that full series (Townsend planned Thieves of Fate as a trilogy) will be published according to plan, without a single day of delay. This story must be told. I need to know what happens next.

CONCLUSION: So, if you like deadly politics tangled up in scientific research and religion, steampunk settings with clockwork technology, and imaginative world-building, do yourself a favor and read Thieves of Fate. It’s gorgeously written, unique and clever.


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