Monday, November 23, 2009

Fall of a Kingdom by Hilari Bell.

Fall of a Kingdom by Hilari Bell.
First in a Trilogy
Young Adult, 448 pages
Published January 6, 2005 by Simon Pulse

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.

In Fall of a Kingdom, the first volume of the Farsala Trilogy, Hilari Bell introduces readers to a world of honor, danger, and magic in this spellbinding tale of self-discovery.

This trilogy came highly recommended by Tamora Pierce, who is one of my all-time favorite authors, and my brother, who I almost always listen to in the area of books except when he is totally wrong. Tamora Pierce has listed this book on one of her recommended reading lists (and yes, I do stalk those when I'm bored). I was a little hesitant when I read the excerpt because, while I do love fantasy, I don't always enjoy worlds where the author makes up half of the worlds and the culture is just so out there. With all the 'Time's Wheel turning...' and Sorahb business, it raised some eyebrows for me. But I'm glad I decided to go ahead and read this anyway; I was pleasantly surprised. Fall of a Kingdom takes place in the land of Farsala, where the people have more or less prospered in their flawed system for many years. An ancient tale tells that when the land is in danger, an old hero will be reborn to save it. The people have not needed this hero, and the story had become more of a myth than fact. But then comes talk of a new enemy, the Hrum who have been sweeping through other countries and quickly destroying them. The Hrum are just and fair, giving the common people the same rights as anyone else. The current ruling class in Farsala, the deghans, are the complete opposite. They take what they can, anyway they can, and spit on the peasants who work for them.

The story switches between the stories of Jiaan- the illegitimate child of deghan who is treated like a peasant, Kavi-a traveling tradesman who finds himself helping the Hrum and the deghans, and Soraya- a young noble woman with enough spirit to take on the whole Hrum army herself. The characters are so well done that I think they may have been my favorite part of this whole book. They are not static or flat in anyway. I could see their motivations, insecurities, and flaws which were very believable. Jiaan I connected with quickly; the only thing he wants is to be accepted by his father, to be shown a hint of pride or emotion from him. He follows his father everywhere like a poor little puppy, begging for affection. He definately touched my heartstrings. Soraya was the fiery deghass, who didn't make excuses for herself and did what she had to do to survive. Her perspective of the story is always filled with peasant-hating comments that made her more realistic, as we are told throughout the whole story that deghans are stuck-up jerks. I was thrown back in forth between hating and loving her, which is where I think I was supposed to be. I may have I ended up loving her the most by the end of the first book, and I'm not even done with the series! Her story shows the promise of growth, which is very exciting. Kavi was complex as well because he wants the best for the common people, the everyday people like him, and he is constantly torn between who would be better as caretakers for them: the Hrum or deghans. He is a simple man, who doesn't know much about politics, and like most peasants is kept in the dark about such things. His hesistation about what was the right thing made me confused about what the right thing to do was as well. There is no clear cut choice between the Hrum and the deghans.

The beginning dragged a little. The action to a while took awhile to completely set itself up. We have a faux-kidnapping, but it wasn't that exciting. Also, there is no dictionary to explain the words, and the reader is just thrust into this world without any explanation. I was extrememly confused when I started reading as to what a 'djinn' was and who ranked higher, a gahn or a deghan/deghass. Eventually that all worked itself out, and from then on the story flowed well. The action was tense and exciting, with just the right amount of pause when the perspective was switched. It didn't feel choppy to have three different main characters. I give this my Tin Heart stamp of approval and recommendation.

Also, did anyone else completely fail at NaNoWriMo? I did. Better luck next year, right? I hope so.

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