Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Fallen Blade Book Review

Title: The Fallen Blade
Author: Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Publisher: Orbit

When my review copy for The Fallen Blade landed in my mailbox some time ago, I was reluctant to look at it, let alone pick it up and read it. "Why?" you might ask. Well, simply put, when boiled down it involves vampires and werewolves. And I'll be the first to admit: I'm sick of both. But, as time wore on, and my pile of books to review dwindled, I slowly came around to the idea of picking up The Fallen Blade. And when I finally did, I was glad for it in more than one way.

The Fallen Blade is the first book in a projected fantasy trilogy by author Jon Courtenay Grimwood.

Fifteenth century Venice. In it, Grimwood crafts a brilliant political landscape, populating the pages with the kind of people in higher authority that will make your skin crawl. Throw in a little romance, a dash of swordplay, a riff on one of Shakespeare's most beloved plays that encompasses the first half of the novel, as well as a Venetian secret organization known as the Assassinani, a boy named Tycho whose plagued with vampyric tendancies and a past that's older than he looks, and a prince that heads a force of werewolves, and you've got one hell of a book. And Grimwood does a marvelous and imaginative job of blending these elements together into a solid story.

After digging in to The Fallen Blade I quickly began hoping that it would break the stereotype of the tween-sparkly vampires that have been forced into the entertainment world of today, and I was pleasantly surprised that Grimwood not only broke it, but shattered it. With this novel, Grimwood has managed to bring the myth of the vampire back to the forefront of the fantasy genre while sticking to the ancient lore of the creatures.

I loved the Shakespeare riff that Grimwood plays off of in the first half of the novel, which I won't identify because of spoilers. Although almost instantly recognizable, the first time I caught hints of it, I was unsure, until I read further. Grimwood does a wonderful job of taking Shakespeare's play and using it to his own advantage, while still building a believable alternate Venice around the story. There's so much more I could say about what I loved in The Fallen Blade, but for the sake of accidentally putting any spoilers up, I'll stop here.

I much as I like the ideas in The Fallen Blade, there were a few issues that bothered me as I read, such as: the pace and the switching of character point of view. Now, I can understand the use of this technique, and am rather fond of it myself, but there were parts where the scene and character would switch and made it feel as if things had been left out; not fully explained. The pace itself was also rather interesting: I felt as though Tycho's training by Atilo seemed to be mismatched in that a lot of time was spent on specific things, while other aspects were completely ignored, or only mentioned in passing.

There's a lot going for Grimwood's The Fallen Blade: a tight plot, interesting characters, politics, secret organizations and a world set in fifteenth century Venice that'll keep you turning the pages into the wee hours of the morning. That's why I'm giving it 8.0 out of 10 TARDIS's. I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel.


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