In a land of sorcery, death-magic is the most dangerous. Enter the Book of Lost Souls, a mightily strong source of spells and secrets that our four protagonists want to get their hands on. We’ve got entitled royalty, a skilled soldier, lazy but talented clergy, and a tarnished innocent, each with their own agenda and motives for tracking down the Book.
Each of the four has their own singular driving quirk, but this piece of information about themselves seems to stand in place of a fully fleshed-out personality; there’s nothing that will come as a surprise to regular readers of fantasy literature.
These motivations do move the story along, but there’s just little to no sense of progression or development in their individual character arcs throughout the novel that it leaves you with a sense that you’ve wasted your time in reading it. While the idea of When The Heavens Fall may be an intriguing one, and we really hope to see more elements, like the network of deities, it’s so difficult to care about any of its characters that you have no real reason for emotionally investing in the world.
That said, it’s not written badly; not at all. The action sections are gripping, from knife fights in dingy taverns to full-on battles and sieges, and there’s skill there in the setting of scenes, with plenty of showing and not much telling. Individually, the scenes are gripping, but their wider context falls short. When The Heavens Fall is perfectly well-written, it just doesn’t give you nearly enough reason to care about what happens.
There’s a superficial veneer of excitement, but the plot itself moves at a slow pace, dialling the action up too quickly then plateauing before a final spike, while doing very little world-building to make you invested in the outcome.
Although it’s actually rather pleasant to have a straight-up traditional fantasy without any extreme ‘gritty’ realism or overly whimsical folklore, it just plays it all a little too safe, a little too by the books to be truly engaging. However, it’s a decent first entry into what will hopefully be a series that begins to take a little more creative risk.