Review: When Shadows Fall, by Bruce Blake

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This is the first book of the Small Gods series, an epic fantasy, and in my opinion the best writing Bruce Blake has produced so far.

The prologue sets the scene for the story in explosive fashion. (read) “It rained fire the day the Small Gods fled.” What an awesome first sentence – simple, informative, picturesque. I can see what happened, and I want to read on. I’m hooked.

And the author does not disappoint. What a treat the rest of the story is! Blake takes the core of an old-fashioned tale, wraps layers upon layers of conflict over it and transforms it into the most original gem I’ve read in this genre.

The storyline develops in separate threads that converge unexpectedly throughout the book – and the best part is: there’s so much more of the story to come! We have a barren mother, royal siblings, a sailor, a man from across the sea, Small Gods who want to regain their rightful place, and a shed-load of intrigue. Who is the first heir of the rightful king? What does the scroll actually mean? Will the Small Gods succeed or will the Goddess win? How destructive will her wrath be this time? Will Horace take to the seas again? And what does life hold for Ailyssa?

Every character is beautifully crafted. From Horace, with his entertaining sailor-speak, to the way Danya treats her big brother, Teryk, and her best friend and servant, Trenan, every voice is distinct and every dialogue perfect. You get to worm your way into the characters’ heads, you have the chance to understand them, and that way you connect with them and the predicaments they find themselves in. They are real.

The pace of the story is a typical Bruce Blake special: don’t expect to have too much time for a coffee break. Things tumble out of control from the first scene onwards, and even the end promises more action. I was left wishing I could read just one more chapter, or a couple maybe, the beginning of the second book.

I loved reading it – every paragraph on every page – and so it would be difficult for me to find fault with this book, even putting on my nit-picking goggles. I recommend When Shadows Fall wholeheartedly, not just to fantasy lovers, but to everyone who likes a good story and wants to be entertained. You’ll get so much more than your money’s worth from those pages. Five shiny gold stars for this performance!

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