Honestly, what really sealed my interest was that James Somers’ “Fallen” was free on Kindle at the time. It appealed to my highly bred and well-trained sense of cheapskatedness. And honestly, I would have felt gypped if I had paid to read it. As of the specific moment I wrote this review I didn’t have Wi-fi access, so I couldn’t confirm this, but I had/have a sneaking suspicion that “Fallen” is Somers’s first published work, because it reeks of amateur.1
Somers tries to use old-timey Victorian talk, but it really comes out wooden, especially from our first-person, seventeen-year-old protagonist. He sounds like a thirteen-year-old numbskull who was socialized exclusively through nonfiction books. It doesn’t help that he also acts like a socially inept thirteen-year-old numbskull. I might forgive numbskullery if the character was in some way likeable, but this kid Brody has little to no personality whatsoever.
Secondly, there was too much limping description. I can like purple prose in the right hands, but this wasn’t even weak lilac prose. It was just too much mundane description that bogged down the pacing.
This is sad, because the plot was pretty decent. It’s all Peretti-ish spiritual warfare, but set in Victorian London with mythological creatures and magical stuff. The basic idea is that the fallen angels from before the Flood fathered all the mythological creatures like elves and vampires and werewolves with human women. These evil creatures are waging war on Heaven and indirectly on humans, and Brody is the Christian!Special Snowflake who has awesome powers and who will probably defeat them. (This is only the first book in the series, so no major battles yet.)
And now I’m going to take a moment to moan about John Milton. Fun fact: Demons are never described as fallen angels in the Bible. “Fallen angel” is a phrase that never, ever appears in the Bible. The idea was probably around before Milton and his “Paradise Lost,” but “Paradise Lost” was what codified it into the cultural consciousness. Fanon that ascended to canon, so to speak. Also, so is the idea that Original Sin (the concept or the event) is all about sex. That one actually hacks me off more because it has caused/perpetuated so much stupid.
Let’s just get this out in the clear: the “sons of God”/Nephilim from that bit of Genesis are not necessarily fallen angels or demonic or any of that. But on the other hand, I can accept that interpretation for the sake of the story in Fallen or any other story. After all, it’s not a terribly important bit of theology.
But despite what Brody claims in text, the scriptures never, ever said that Tartarus was a prison for fallen angels. That’s pure Milton. Go sit in the Shame Corner for dirt-poor Bible knowledge, Somers.
I’m not going to talk about plot, really, because otherwise there would be no reason to read this book. But I am going to moan about point of view, because while most of it is first person from protagonist Brody’s perspective, there are significant shifts to third person from other characters’ perspectives. I don’t mind this in of itself, but it added nothing to the story. Unless you count an emphasis on what a numbskull Brody is. I think it would have been better all in third person.
The Christian bits … mehhhh. It was just as wooden and blah as any other overtly Christian-y bits in other Christian fiction I’ve seen. Though Somers kept it pretty toned down, kudos for that, but that didn’t really make the bits less wooden when they did show up. The portrayed nature of evil was also pretty arbitrary, the Arbiter being the Necessities of the Plot. God/Jesus is/are referenced but do not have a role beyond vague figureheads at this point.
Also, I thought it was pretty funny that the Egyptian werewolves (descended from Anubis) had Greek names like Lycean, Sophia, and Helios. Go sit in the Shame Corner for dirt-poor linguistic knowledge, Somers, though this is more of a misdemeanor. You wrote these as the pyramid-building Egyptians, not the Hellenized ones after Alexander the Great’s conquest.
But all in all, I would probably read the sequels to Fallen if I ran across them. If I could get them for free. Fallen is inventive enough to be worth the time reading, but it’s not getting my money, especially since I’m still a cheap ramen-eater.
- Even after getting Wi-fi, I can’t confirm this for sure, but since the “Descendants” trilogy is consistently first in his listed works, I think it’s still a safe assumption. ↩