Fall Far from the Tree (Amy McNulty)

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2.75/5 stars

I’m quite fond of a good dose of ‘grimdark’ fantasy so I was really interested to read what seemed to be a young adult version of my favourite adult fantasy trope. ‘Fell Far from the Tree’ is written from the POVs of four teenage characters struggling to follow in the footsteps of their parents. Rohesia is the daughter of a brutal duke who has been raised to hate and destroy her own people. Fastello is a nomad prince, raised to steal from the rich to feed the poor, but increasingly aware that his father is not the paragon of virtue he would like him to be. Cateline is a religious devotee hidden away in a monastery, realising as she ages that not all is pure and good in the order she was born into. Kojiro is the Prince of a distant empire, a constant disappointment to his Empress mother who has decided to send him on a suicide mission to assassinate a foreign dignitary. None of these lives should ever have intertwined, but the roles they have been raised for begin to take them all down the same bloody and violent path…

Story- 3/5
-As you can see from the synopsis, this sounds really interesting. Assassins? Priestesses? Robin Hood undertones? But it just ends up being way more confusing than it needs to be.
-Instead of four threads that should have formed a clean braid, we ended up with four threads that tangled into an almost impenetrable mess.
-Frustratingly, I think a structural rework could have made this much more enjoyable.

Characters- 3.5/5
-I’m sad that the book wasn’t longer! I would have liked to have gotten to know all the characters a little better. I think that it negated some of the strength of the ending that I didn’t know the characters well enough and therefore wasn’t entirely invested in the ending of their arcs. However, what I did know of the characters I liked, especially how the narrative dealt with their internal dialogues.
-From a positive perspective the characters are wonderfully diverse. We have three POV’s from POC and the fourth POV is from the perspective of a character with a disability. I think that some of the rep maybe suffered from the same problem that the book wasn’t long enough and therefore couldn’t deal satisfactorily with some the internalised racism that played quite a big part in the story.

Worldbuilding- 3.5/5
-I have the same criticisms for the worldbuilding as I do for the characterisation. The book just needed to be longer.
-I love how the characters all come from very different backgrounds and there was such potential to use these multiple viewpoints to give a huge, rich view of the world they inhabited. But their ‘introductions’ were cut so short that we ended up with only a broad swathe painting of what seemed like a really interesting and complex world.

Ending- 3/5
-I felt pretty emotional about some of the things that happened in the ending. Without giving an spoilers I’ll say that I was glad that McNulty didn’t take the easy way out and ‘save’ everyone. The ending was true to the tone of the rest of the book.
-It felt maybe a little too open if it was intended to be a stand alone. As it is left at the moment I think it would be a bit strange not to have a second book.

The Nitty Gritty- 2/5
-The pacing is off. I feel like you haven’t been given time to get to know the characters well enough to actually care what happens to them…
-The prose is good but each character’s narrative voice sounds exactly the same. I found it very difficult to tell whose POV I was reading if there weren’t constant references to their storyline.

Conclusion
-Lots of great ideas but too confusing to be truly satisfying.
-Far too short to give us time to grow to know the characters.
-if you enjoyed you should consider reading: The Lies of Locke Lamora (Scott Lynch), The Boy with the Porcelain Blade (Den Patrick), The Blade Itself (Joe Abercrombie)

Thank you to Netgalley and Patchwork Press for a copy in return for an honest review.

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Down Station (Simon Morden)

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DNF @ 52% after a good old slog of an effort…

I started reading this book a while ago, and at first the premise seemed really interesting. A ragtag group of survivors flee Armageddon through a door in the London tube network to a strange new world. But very quickly it lost its magic, mostly due to just being a little bit predictable.

The new world just wasn’t that interesting…which still baffles me because how can a world filled with strange monsters be boring? Yet somehow it was. For a book that spent so much time supposedly describing the world I still didn’t really feel as if I was in it.

I wanted to like the characters mainly because I was excited to see a POC protagonist, but they felt like cardboard cutouts and were often weird cultural stereotypes (mouthy girl whose been in care, the older black woman who mothered them all…yeah).

What frustrated me most, however, was reaching 50% and there still being no real discernible plot. Why put characters in an interesting new world and inflict upon them the same boring social hierarchy that we see in everyday life?

I went and read some reviews to try and get myself back into the mindset for continuing to read it but I just felt as if I was reading a different book entirely. Sadly, there was nothing that made me want to continue other than a lingering interest in how it ended. But not even that could keep me going. It’s a pretty rare thing for me to not finish a book but it felt as if the more effort I put into trying to finish, the more I began to hate the book. 52% seems a fair attempt to get into a book and it took me a month to get there. I think, for someone who usually reads books in a couple of days, that it’s time to jump ship.

I’m giving it 2 stars because I don’t think it’s a horrific book and I thought that it was well written but that it was just very much not for more. It’s pretty rare for a book to be ‘too slow’ for me, but I think I’ve found one.

Many thanks to Gollancz and Netgalley for a copy in return for an honest review. I’m sorry that I didn’t enjoy it more!