This Child is not the chosen one. She is a demon to be destroyed.
Born of magic, Nerana is labeled a demon and forced into hiding by the Order of Saro. Living with a curse that binds her to their leader, Nerana seeks to free herself from their hold and soon learns that the path to redemption may prove more fatal than the Order itself.
But for Nerana, this is more than a quest for survival... It’s a promise of revenge.
I love my grimdark with a splash of humor, and Curse of the Fallen definitely scratched that itch. Mainly, that levity comes through thanks to the presence of Ebbard, or Loryk, as he's known to his friends. Right from the get-go, this character reminded me of Dandelion from The Witcher games. Charismatic and witty, yet also a loyal and caring friend. It's easy to love this guy, and I found myself growing more attached as the story went on (especially enjoying his failed attempts at speaking Evaesh).
The whole cast of characters in Curse is great. From Neer, our determined and vengeful protagonist to Avelloch, who pretends he doesn't care about the party yet goes to great efforts to keep them safe. The action never lets up in this story, but there was still enough relationship building to make sure I cared about these characters' fates.
When it came time for H.C. to extract an emotional toll, the groundwork laid for each character allowed the story to reach tall peaks. I particularly loved the final sequence when the heroes endure the Trials they had been searching for throughout the whole book. Each trial delves into the background of one of the main characters, making the climax of each character arc the trauma they survived in the past.
There's death and betrayal, and all of it is handled with gritty realism that lends much-needed depth to what could have been a simple quest fantasy. As I was reading, so many details reminded me of Skyrim and the Witcher, down to the characters using a lever to open a cell door.
While there are some seriously dark and disturbing moments in these pages, the book remains fun and, strangely, kind of nostalgic? Maybe it's just me, but there's some allure to these kinds of fantasy worlds that's kept me playing Skyrim somewhat continuously in the 12 years since its first release (out of 15, if you can believe it).
That same charm is present in Curse of the Fallen, only I find the characters and story far more compelling than what Elder Scrolls has managed to serve up (sorry, Todd Howard). You may go into this expecting a fun adventure – and you'll get that! – but be prepared for heartbreak. H.C. doesn't pull her punches, and I'm excited to see what new emotional highs she can reach in future Fallen Light books.