Fall of Erlon is a flintlock fantasy novel that goes easy on the fantasy. I’m a big fan of Brian McLellan, and so I was quite looking forward to this book.
It opens with a young woman, Elisa, living on a farm and hunting in the woods to fill her days. It’s soon revealed that she is the daughter of the deposed and exiled emperor and is living in hiding. The world building is quite complex in this book. The reader is brought in towards the end of a massive conflict, with eight or more nations at war, essentially squabbling over the scraps of the global empire they have brought down.
Elisa’s story begins in earnest when she has a vision whilst hunting, and a Lamkian, a non-human, tells her to flee before the invading Horde can catch her. The Horde, also known as Kurakin, ride giant wolverines and file their teeth to points. They had the potential to be pretty cool actually.
I think my major problem with this book was the number of pov characters. There are at least six major characters ranging from scouts/hunters, to kings and marshalls. They’re spread over at least four nations, and I’ve probably missed one or two in there as well. Sometimes that’s not a problem but, personally, I didn’t especially connect with any of them, and that made this book a bit of a slog for me.
There isn’t a whole lot of magic in this novel, with it mostly restricted to visions and the Horde’s abilities with hawks and animals. There’s also mentions of sorcery which possibly might have played a stronger role.
The light touch on fantasy gives this book an almost historical fiction vibe but, overall, it was the characters that let it down. If I had to put my finger on it, I’d say there were just too many and not enough time spent with each for me to get invested with them. The book became a slog, and I have the attention span of a gnat. Sadly, all this these things conspired to spoil this for me just a bit.
A fun read for those who like historical fiction with a twist.
SPFBO score. 6.5
This started off with an interesting premise – a scholar king is interviewing a fallen emperor on a deserted, rocky, and cold island to which this emperor has been exiled. I tend to enjoy scholar characters in general, but it’s not often they are paired with being royal, too. Kings are often the warriors of their society, or exceptionally cruel and the antagonist character – the Robert Baratheon types. I was a little sad that King Nelson, the scholar king, didn’t come back into the story until about 2/3rds the way through the book. It was neat though where that prologue became relevant.
This is a world where there are 8-10 major nations that have been at war with each other for a long time. We pick up the story as a long and bloody war is coming to an end. The emperor has been exiled, and nearly every city the empire had been holding on to has fallen… nearly sealing the deal for the Erlon empire’s total collapse. There are a few loose threads that Ther Coalition needs to deal with, though. One of which is the emperor’s daughter, Elisa, who is still alive and in hiding somewhere in the empire. The Coalition is comprised of a handful of nations that took up arms against the Empire. The alliance is tenuous and these certainly aren’t many great friendships between them. The alliance needs to be formally laid out to go forward, and so there are peace summits going on as well as a few straggling battles to wipe out what’s left of the empire and find the princess.
In this story we follow Elisa, who is the emperor’s daughter who has been hiding on a farm pretending she’s not a princess. She has a vision while out hunting one day, it’s a Lamkian (non human) who tells her she has to flee before the Horde finds her. We also follow Andrei, a member of the Horde’s most elite fighters and trackers, the Sycthes. Lauriston, a Marshal and leader of one of the last group of soldiers putting up resistance to the Coalition. Rapp, who is a Wahrian prince who is a member of the Coalition. General Pitt, the general for the Burians and also a member of the Coalition. There are more POVs that are introduced later on … this is why I started to struggle around a quarter of the way through the book. The POVs were switching so frequently that it made it a touch difficult to remember who all the side characters were and why they were relevant to the POV. Each of these characters has little to do with one another during the first third of the book and they all have their own group of side characters around them. The other issue with this is that I didn’t get to know the POVs well enough to nvest in their story. The overarching plot itself was interesting, the world building was neat, but I have trouble connecting fully with a story if I’m not rooting for the characters. This issue did start to resolve itself around halfway through the book as I got more page time with each of them. So, I started off with a lot of interest, started to not care, but then picked back up again once the characters’ voices started to develop more thoroughly.
I think Rapp was my least favorite character, he was arrogant, head strong, made stupid decisions and only thought about himself and his glory. Lauriston was probably my favorite, something about people losing a lot but still trying to persevere resonates with me. For that same reason, I also really enjoyed Mon’s character despite him not being a POV, he’s a companion that tries to escort Elisa to safety. I would have liked either a longer book to devote more time to character development, or less characters. I feel like many of the side characters became flat because there simply wasn’t enough time to dissect them and give them clear motives and voices. This is especially true for those introduced after 50% of the book was already over.
I do find the world building pretty neat. The Horde uses mount-sized Wolverines and are feared by most, the fact that they are allied with the Coalition is a fright indeed for the Erlon Empire. They’ve got pointed teeth and are a race apart from the humans. They live hard lives and there’s no “easy day” for a Scythe – someone in their army. This had a 17th – 18th century vibe to it since there were rudimentary firearms like single shot hand loading muskets. Not medieval but not modern either. There wasn’t a whole lot of magic up front. The fantasy elements were lightly done with this one. The non-human races, visions, and the Hordes’ connection with their hawks and animals was about as magical as it got for most of the book. Elisa’s mother is referenced as a sorceress but it’s not a huge part of the story. There’s also a religion that’s prevalent throughout The Coalition and the Empire, a god called The Ascended One is worshiped by most of the humans on the Continent. The Lamkian’s have their own gods who they claim are more ancient than the Ascended Ones – and the Kurakin are “bearded warrior people” who are unto their own. They file their teeth down into points and are considered wildmen.
This took me a little bit to warm up to it because there was a bit of a drag for me in the middle, but I felt like the ending was satisfying enough and I did enjoy myself pretty well.
- Plot: 13/15
- Characters: 10/15
- World Building: 12/15
- Writing: 12/15
- Pacing: 10/15
- Originality: 11/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 7/10
Final Score: 75/100 or 7.5/10
Fall of Erlon takes place in a world of many nations that are currently at war. We see this story from several points of view, ranging from Erlonians, Wahrians, Kurakin, and Brunian. The Erlonian emperor had been exiled to an island, leaving his daughter and heir Elisa hiding on a small farm. She is found and subsequently chased down by the Kurakin Scythes, wildmen riding giant wolverines until finding solace with her father’s greatest Marshal, Lauriston.
We see this story from the point of view of Rapp, a Wahrian prince; Nelson, the King of Brun; Elisa, the daughter of the Emperor of Erlon; Pitt, a Brunian general; Andrei, a Kurakin Scythe; and Lauriston, the Marshal of the Erlonians, among others. This made it rather difficult for me to latch onto any of the characters, but I did eventually get there. We are introduced to so many people from so many places over the course of this book that I still have a bit of trouble remembering who was who in the grand scheme of things. The Brunians, Wahrians, and Kurakin have formed a coalition against Erlon, as I understood it, and the Kurakin especially are after Elisa, the princess of Erlon, because without her or her father, Erlon will fall.
This was an easy read, meaning it was ready to pick up and keep reading, even despite my not really enjoying it much until the latter half. It was well written enough that I kept on going, as I enjoyed the writing itself. The first half threw a bunch of characters at me and it wasn’t until I got familiar with any of them that I enjoyed their story. I did end up liking Elisa and Lauriston, as well as Pitt, by the end.
All told, if you’re a fan of flintlock fantasy or military fantasy, you might enjoy this one quite a bit. For me, it was a solid 6/10 stars.