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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fall of a Kingdom by Hilari Bell

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Copyright: 2003

Page: 422
Rating: Rating 5 Crowns

Who was Sorahb? Stories are told of a hero who will come to Farsala's aid when the need is greatest. But for thousands of years the prosperous land of Farsala has felt no such need, as it has enjoyed the peace that comes from being both feared and respected. Now a new enemy approaches Farsala's borders, one that neither fears nor respects its name and legend. But the rulers of Farsala still believe that they can beat any opponent. Three young people are less sure of Farsala's invincibility. Jiaan, Soraya, and Kavi see Time's Wheel turning, with Farsala headed toward the Flames of Destruction. What they cannot see is how inextricably their lives are linked to Farsala's fate -- until it's too late. This is the first book in Hilari Bell's Farsala Trilogy. We're introduced to Jiaan--a peasant-born bastard son of a noble taken into the Commander's household as a page, Soraya--the Commander's fiery, willful daughter and Kavi--a spy perhaps, but who knew where his loyalties truly ran? Each chapter follows from a third person viewpoint of one of those three young people--who's lives are intertwined together no matter what the distance (of land or experience) forces upon them. Additionally there are short chapters that fill in the legend of Sorahb, a legendary figure who will rise again when the need is great.

And frankly the need is pretty great as the book goes on.

I'll be frank I was recommended this book by a friend who thought it would be a fun joke to see me stumble through it. Its heavy on political intrigues and machinations as well as a healthy dose of murder, revenge and fighting. I hesitate to say its a hard book to go through because its not, its fairly simple as long as you keep the players of the game straight and their movements. In particular Kavi creates problems because he is a trickster, a guy who wants to watch out for himself and himself along, but finds himself caught up in plots that go over his head. He's not a bad guy, but he's blinded by his hatred for Farsala nobles who have only ever treated him like dirt beneath their boots.

Since this is the first book in a trilogy, the end is not tied up in a neat bow. Honestly by the end of it everyone is so far removed from who they were in the beginning, that its hard for me to remember (as I re-read the book) that Soraya really was that bratty or that Jiaan never spoke up for himself. Despite her flaws though Soraya is my favorite character--she's a brat, true, but she is also young and unable to fully understand what is happening around her. All she sees is her father sending her away as an unruly child when she wants to be seen as a young woman ready to embark upon her own life and hold herself equal to everyone else. She doesn't see that the Hrum (the enemy) has learned from their past failures, that the easy victory Farsala took for granted for so long is not a stone cold fact, that her father wants her to live and be free of what the Hrum will do to her if they caught her.

Kavi and Jiaan are interesting polar opposites. Very easily Jiaan could have been Kavi if the Commander hadn't taken him in and raised him far above what his peasant (bastard) status demanded. They also view the Commander and his 'generosity' in entirely different ways. Jiaan is grateful for the chance while Kavi is suspicious of a noble man who would act the way he does.

Overall this book is a great way to start a fantasy that makes you think and scheme like the characters. Nothing comes easy in Farsala, least of all answers to what it means to be a hero.
Duchess of the Dark


Melissa said...

Great review! I hadn't heard of this book, so I've just added it to my wish list. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Anonymous said...

Jimmy would LOVE this book! It sounds perfect for him.

Anonymous said...

This author's name is completely new to me but after this review I'll be adding her to my WL.