Is Our Writers Learning: The Fallen by Tarn Richardson (#SFWApro)

What I learned from THE FALLEN: The Darkest Hand Trilogy Book 2 by Tarn Richardson (couldn’t find cover art credits but all rights remain with current holder) is that if you try telling me the Inquisition are the good guys, I’m going to roll my eyes at you.

The Story: It’s the middle of WW I. The Darkest Hand, a sinister conspiracy plotting to free the forces of Hell, is manipulating events on and off the battlefield, and eliminating Inquisitors who might pose a threat. Poldek Tacit, the consummate Inquisitor (in this setting, they’re like Slayers), is in prison and under torture. Can he break out to help the woman he loves fight against the Hand’s next move?

WHAT I LEARNED:

In a historical novel, setting matters. I hate historical novels that bury me in detail, particularly if it’s expository (I’ve seen novels where people constantly exposit about their daily lives, much like the characters in the fantasy Black Wolves do). At the same time, I don’t really see much point in a historical setting if the story doesn’t make use of the setting.

Richardson does a great job on the detail during the scenes at the front, no question. But his scenes away from the front, there was nothing that particularly grabbed me. Nothing that made me feel this was distinctly 1915, rather than well, a few years earlier, a few years later.

Attitudes matter too. There’s nothing about the characters that seems particularly WW I either — for example nothing as distinctive as the way the real-life people in Testament of Youth consoled themselves with poetry in tragic moments. Maybe that’s one reason that while the action scenes fly, everything slows to a crawl during the talky scenes. And there are a lot of talky scenes.

Capitalizing a generic word rarely works. One of the lead characters comes from an order of nuns that tries to seduce priests to see if they’ll hold fast to their vows. The name of the order? The Chaste.

Seriously? Like “the Burned” in that recent Green Arrow collection, the name falls flat. It doesn’t make them interesting, and you’d think (well I would) that a holy order would have a more formal name (The Sisters of The Testing of Virtue or something — that one’s not great either, but you get the point).

Some bad guys just ain’t redeemable. Rather like Hellboy’s fondness for making witch-hunters the good guys, Richardson’s use of the Inquisition just sticks in my craw (it’s not so bad with Hellboy because I like Hellboy). The Inquisition were not good guys. They persecuted heretics. They hunted Jews. They hunted witches. Lots of innocent people suffered under the Inquisition, as did people who were guilty but only of disagreeing with church doctrine.

Presenting the Inquisition as heroic evil-fighters … sorry, no. It’s like writing a story where the witches at Salem really were guilty. I don’t think for a minute Richardson is pro-Inquisition in the real world, but it didn’t work for me even a little.

Richardson’s writing is good and I didn’t have any trouble following the story (even though it’s Vol. 2 and I haven’t read 1) but I won’t be picking up Vol. 3.

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