Let me state clearly where I stand when it comes to Alex Verus: I think he’s the greatest Urban Fantasy protagonist ever.
I’ve enjoyed every single book in the series and I enjoyed this latest instalment as well – just not as much as most of the others, unfortunately.
Why though? The trademark humour is there, Luna is there and so are Anne, Variam, Arachne and others. Sadly, they mostly take a place on the backseat this time.
Luna barely gets any serious “stage” time; she’s generally around and worries a lot but doesn’t get to do or experience much. For such an important character that’s pretty sad.
We do get to see more of Anne who has a more “active” role in the proceedings but she remains unrefined and pale compared to many other characters. Maybe part of that is my own perception, though; I’ve never felt that Anne added much to the books – she always felt like the obligatory love interest and I never found her especially interesting. It’s probably because of that I don’t care very much about the role she plays in this tenth book.
Personally, I think even the air elemental Starbreeze – who is FINALLY back in this book – is a lot more interesting and even more important.
The story is rather simple as well: The war between Britain’s Light Council and Richard Drakh is ongoing and Alex comes to realise he will have to step up his game and make some hard decisions in order to actually achieve at least some of his goals and protect those he loves.
And that he does: He plunges head first into the action and does what has to be done – the personal consequences – as of yet unclear – be damned. The personal and character changes these bring are subtly shown by Jacka and that’s a large part of why I still enjoyed this book.
One of the major downsides can best be illustrated by a direct quote from the book:
“I looked at the house for a moment longer, feeling as though a very old piece of unfinished business had just come to an end.”
Reading many parts of this book makes me feel exactly like that: “Being on a clock” (as Alex puts it) – because we’re nearing the end of the series – makes Jacka pick up loose threads from earlier books (so loose I often didn’t even remember them…) and put quite some effort into resolving them. That, in itself, is commendable but I’d rather have had some real character development beyond Alex himself and that is sorely lacking in “Fallen”, unfortunately.
Jacka is setting up his stage for the final books, makes previous characters reappear (cf. Starbreeze or Meredith), makes some others disappear (and that one character to boot! How dare he!) and is generally preparing to move on to greener pastures. That we feel this in the tenth of twelve planned books is a bit premature, I think.
Maybe, though, it’s again me who already feels saddened by the thought of having to say goodbye to Alex Verus whose adventures have brightened up my reading time.
Last but not least, don’t worry if you’re a fan – you will enjoy “Fallen” (aptly titled!) as it’s fast-paced, suspenseful and features much of what we came to love. I just wish it had been less of a “blast from the past” and more of a future-oriented book.
If you’re new to Alex Verus, don’t start with this book, though. This is one of those series you need to read in order.