Hero at the Fall has undoubtedly been my most anticipated read of 2018. So anticipated that I put reading the book off until now.
That may seem strange but here’s the thing: what if it had been a disappointment? I’d heard mixed reviews and this series has been one of my favourites over the last few years, I wasn’t quite ready to be disappointed when it was first released over summer, and I definitely wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Amani and her rebellion.
However my worries for it being a disappointment were totally fruitless in the end, because I loved this stunning conclusion to an incredible series. Amani and friends left with a bang, in a cloud of gun smoke and dessert dust which couldn’t have been more perfect.
“We would be stories long after we were gone. Imperfect, inaccurate stories. Stories that could never even come close to reality“
The story itself opens with the rebellion at it’s worse: moral is low as a valuable rebel demendji has just been executed, most of the important players have been captured and the Sultan is at his most powerful, with an army of unstoppable clay men at his side. It seems Amani stands no chance when she steps up to lead what is left of the rebels.
While the first novel showed us Amani’s bravery, and the second demonstrated her loyalty, this novel tests her determination. With the tides turning against the rebellion and every decision she makes seeming to be the wrong one, it proves difficult for them to hope to find their leader, and even harder for her to find him alive. To make matters worse she can’t forget the rebellion’s overall aim, which is to remove the Sultan from power, another seemingly impossible task.
“We were like faded pictures in a book that had lost a lot of its gilt” -Amani
The writer has chosen to develop an unusual plethora of characters in this novel. We don’t see the struggle that Shazard or the Rebel Prince go through, instead we watch Amani, Sam, Jin and Hala learn how to lead the rebellion, testing their loyalty and friendship to ultimately prove they can win alone. Because the novel is centred on so few characters their development is clearly marked and the reader can understand their aims and personal struggles better. The loyalty they show, the sacrifices they make and characters they become make it even harder when the reader is faced with their losses.
The characters lives and deaths are sometimes narrated in ‘aside’ chapters in a story tale fashion. These chapters, dipicting how these characters’ stories are later told throughout Maraji, further add to the reader’s perception of the characters and gives the novel a story telling vibe. More of this world’s folk lore is interwoven in the plot of the novel also compared to the others in the series, adding an unusual element. I’ve read reviews that have found these chapters detracting from the novel but I, personally, found them powerful. Depicting a character’s death in this way made it even more shocking and the short snippets of stories provided a fresh style that I haven’t read before.
“But even if the desert forgot a thousand and one of our stories, it was enough that they would tell of us at all.”
I have two small gripes with an otherwise fantastic novel. My first would be the typos. I am not normally a reader who picks up on typos but I found the book riddled with them and wondered, in places, if the writing could have been neatened up. I don’t know if this is true, but the novel read like it had been written in a rush. The elegant phrases I had come to enjoy in Alwyn Hamilton’s writing became sparse in this novel and the descriptions more clunky in places than necessary. This wasn’t a massive issue because the plot was still good and character’s felt fleshed out, but their was an element of finesse this novel lacked that felt prominent in its predecessors.
My second would be Leyla. She seemed like a strong character bent on survival at the end of Traitor to the Throne, but she became weaker as the plot went on, reduced to traipsing behind the rebellion while whining until finally falling on seduction for her survival. Perhaps because she was an engineer, I felt she could have been a strong female character (because, after all, strong female characters don’t always have to be good) but instead felt like she was the embodiment of the stereotypes this novel has done so well at fighting. I felt her putting up more of a fight, verbally if nothing else, wouldn’t have removed anything from the plot but would have made me endlessly happier.
However, these are minor details and overall I enjoyed the novel a lot. In an attempt to end my review on a good point I’ll finally touch on Jin and Amani’s relationship. In my review for Traitor to the Throne I said I found them annoying but in this novel I think this was redeemed. I thought it was refreshing in YA to read about a relationship after the girl has snagged the unbelievably handsome prince. It wasn’t pushed to the side like other novels I’ve read, they were still struggling to make it work and it was nice to have the odd detail dotted in that this was a worry for them. It wasn’t too prominent in the novel and didn’t take anything away from the plot but I liked the fact that their personal lives was a consideration and their overall worries about making it work out felt very normal.
“But he wondered if a boy from the sea and a girl from the desert could ever survive together. He feared that she might burn him alive or that he might drown her. Until finally he stopped fighting it and set himself on fire for her.“
Overall I’d give this novel 4 stars, but very close to five and recommend the series to anyone. I think it will be a firm favourite with me for quite a while.
Let’s Compare Notes
Have you read this novel or any in the series? Is it on your tbr? What do you think of my review? Would love to hear your opinion in the comments section!