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Rise and Fall by Joshua P. Simon

Rise and Fall by Joshua P. Simon
Book Name: Rise and Fall
Author: Joshua P. Simon
Publisher(s): Joshua P. Simon
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook / eBook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: November 28, 2011

I skimmed through a number of books in my kindle backlog before this review. Some I rejected because there were too many errors in the text, some because the characters were dull or generic, and some because the story failed to draw me in after the first few chapters. Rise and Fall is not without its faults, but it towered over the competition when I was deciding what to review. From the moment I started reading I knew it was different. The prose was good, flowing nicely. The characters were believable and well developed, with the reader instantly grasping the various relationships. The world was nicely visualised, but perhaps a little short on detail. It was enough to keep me reading.

Rise and Fall charts the events immediately following the death of king Aurnon of Cadonia, focusing on the lives of three main characters. First the new queen Elyse who struggles with a task she is not prepared for, trying to rule a country that has no faith in the crown. Next the brave Kifzo warrior Tobin, fighting a war of conquest for his father while constantly suffering the abuse of his cruel brother Kaz. Lastly the noble mercenary Jonrell, brother of Elyse, former prince of Cadonia and commander of the Hell Patrol, a rag-tag band of bloodthirsty misfits.

Each character has their own well defined arcs that blend together within the greater story. The reader has time to engage with each and develop a relationship. Simon’s skill with characterisation and portraying relationships is one of main selling points of the book. Each character inspires admiration from the reader, though I did take a while to warm up to Elyse, and thought her weak and whiny to begin with. But as she develops through the book into a better ruler and a stronger person, Elyse grows to become a real contender for the reader’s affection.

Jonrell I instantly took a liking to. The tough yet caring commander worked instantly and the interactions with his men were believable and entertaining. Jonrell’s cares and worries make him human while his actions make him heroic. And while I’m not normally interested in tribal fantasy, Tobin grew on me quickly as well; the writing soon drew me to empathise with his situation, held down by his older brother and viewed with contempt by the men. You grow to really root for him as he tries his best in a bad situation.

A sign of good writing is to evoke an emotional response with a character, good or bad. Simon is able to do this even with his secondary characters, managing to flesh them out almost as much as his primaries in very little time. Whether it’s the distaste the reader feels for the crude and bloodthirsty Raker, the chuckle they have at the cantankerous Hag, or the gratitude towards Tobin’s friend Walor, all the characters elicit some sort of response. Tobin’s father Bazraki is particularly well done, evoking a real sense of frustration and anger as you side with Tobin.

The plot of the story is detailed and well thought out, with a clear sense of progression across the separate narratives that builds to a tense climax. There are plenty of ups and downs for each main character and a number of surprise twists that dot the narrative, keeping things exciting throughout. Even after the climax there are a number of sudden jolts that jar the reader and leave you eager for the next part of the trilogy.

The world of Rise and Fall is passable for a setting but far from spectacular. Cadonia is fairly standard medieval European and the tribal lands of Hesh are also quite basic. Some of the cities described had nice imagery and Slum Isle was interesting, but overall it felt very much like a backdrop for the story and the characters. Fortunately the story and characters are entertaining enough that it’s not a problem. But a little more depth would have made it a truly vibrant world. The battles are well described, Tobin’s use of terrain is believable and an early battle at sea makes for compelling reading. However I thought that the ending siege could have used more detail to enhance the atmosphere and give the reader a clearer picture.

As for the writing, the story is fast-paced and very focused on the narrative. The language is capable and has elements of humour spaced through to liven up the tale. There were some grammatical errors in the text which is always annoying, and at times the dialogue felt cumbersome and unrealistic. However these flaws are few enough not to detract from the overall enjoyment of the book.

Simon clearly has some skill in weaving a tale, Rise and Fall is an engaging story that draws the reader in and makes them care about the characters. The narrative grows more complex as some characters that appeared villainous are seen in a new light, while those the reader thought were noble take on a darker path. There is a thrilling multi protagonist plot that carries the story along with a building sense of tension and leads to an exciting climax. It was a good opening to the trilogy and I definitely plan on reading the next instalment.


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