Matthew Cavanagh takes a walk on the wild side of an alternate Italy.
The Fallen • Publisher: Duckworth Overlook • RRP: £12.99 • Author: Tarn Richardson • Published: 2016-05-05
1915. Demonic Possessions are sweeping across Rome.
The world is under siege from a powerful evil force as war rages on the Italian Austro-Hungarian border. Bodies are piling high. Werewolves are roaming the streets. And the Vatican’s Eagle Fountain is running with blood.
Only Poldek Tacit, the Catholic Church’s most resolute and disturbed Inquisitor, can hope to push back the powers of evil and unite those for good. But what happens when Tacit finds that the path he walks has already been prophesised and that where it leads threatens the very future of a world already on the edge of the abyss?
Rome is one of the most important cities in the history of the world - home to the Roman Empire as well as the Vatican City; famous for its architecture, intrigues and werewolves... oh and demonic possessions. Yes, in The Fallen you’re going to find out there are a few things the tourist guides have been omitting from their books. Happily Tarn Richardson’s book reveals all and at the same time provides an action packed supernatural thriller that will nourish your blood lust as well as make you revise your European history knowledge.
In Richardson’s alternate Rome, the Catholic Church did not disband the Inquisition but has only made the Inquisitors a secret force who tackle actual demonic threats – possessions, demons and magical rituals are all real. In the second book of this trilogy, Poldek Tacit (a huge, amazingly powerful and very focused Inquisitor) saved the world, but as that involved removing a rather evil member of the Church he has been sentenced to prison for the remainder of his life. Thanks to torture, his life is getting imminently shorter! Unfortunately for his bosses in the Vatican a satanic organisation known as the Darkest Hand have chosen this as the perfect time to commit a series of rituals that will hasten the return of the Antichrist.
There is a lot going on in this book, and it’s to its credit it never feels overloaded. Richardson is a very good story teller and over a relatively small number of pages he weaves the various threads in a series of short, very well designed scenes; you are never too far away from the next action sequence be it shootings, car chases, fist fights or armies attacking each other. But be advised that you will be reading about a lot of blood, serious injuries and fatalities. This is more towards an 18 certificate than PG.
There is an interesting mix of characters. With Tacit being in prison for a good third of the book, it gives us time to see some of the supporting heroes in operation and it is very pleasing that we have two key female characters. We meet Isabella, a nun who can shoot and fight off assassins as easily as Tacit can, while we also have Sandrine who wants to save her fellow werewolves from the demonic threats. Tacit is a giant brooding man with a lot of secrets, some of which even he is still trying to work out. When he acts it’s described as a force of nature and safe to say people are going to get hurt. The bad guys are evil and eminently hissable yet their schemes are intriguing and certainly spectacular – including a piece of nasty creativity that Dr Lecter may approve of.
As I’d not read the first in the sequence, I was very pleased that the book treats you as a new reader, summarising events in a way that did not feel like an exposition had been dropped on my head. The way the story rolls along at pace is a highlight for me, as it sucks you in with twists and turns at the end of each chapter. However it is pretty much what you expect it to be and while done well if you’re selecting the book for a look at say, the complexities of the Church and WW1, you may be disappointed. But if you’re looking for an action adventure that will keep your mind occupied then I think you may have found the right read.
The Fallen is a very enjoyable filmic read that may be perfect for a plane ride or lounging on the beach (particularly if you got to Italy!). So as I now wave you back to the hotel I offer the usual advice: enjoy the ride, avoid demonic contact and try the ice cream.