Tour’s Books Blog

April 9, 2011

Book Review: The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtnay Grimwood

This is the second large book that I read (and I read 3 more paranormal/UF’s while I was at it) that gets it’s own review.  Another lengthy and convoluted story that let me down in more ways than one.

  • Title: The Fallen Blade
  • Author:  Jon Courtnay Grimwood
  • Type:  Paranormal historical epic; book 1 of a trilogy
  • Genre:  Renaissance Venice with werewolves, vampires, witches, and murderous families
  • Sub-genre:  Historical UF about a young vampire with no memory who falls for a young heiress and is trained as an assassin
  • My Grade: D+ to C-  (2.5*)
  • Rating:  PG-13 to NC-17
  • Length and price:  Plus novel – about 120,000+ words $10-12 with list of $14.99
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore

Here we go again.  A much anticipated first book of a trilogy set in Renaissance Venice, The Fallen Blade, has all the all scheming, killing, and mayhem of the period with werewolves, witches and a vampire thrown in.  Sounds really promising, huh?  The first part of the story was confusing to nearly incomprehensible in it’s wandering tale told with some of the the most bizarrely tangled sentences ever written.  It was like trying to watch a split screen movie without the benefit of knowing it was a split screen.  The first and last part of the sentence were unrelated – except by time.  GAH!  Past that the book was riddled with non-sentences.  That OK in many cases, other authors do that.  Lee Child has been criticized for his use of that technique.  Unfortunately, here, key words were missing, apparently dropped somewhere in the drafting process, so the intent was murky and awkward, rather than a staccato style that can be very effective.  Several times I found myself going back and rereading things to figure out what word I needed.  Worse, the proofreaders must have slept through this one, because we have the plague of homonyms and and just plain bad grammar running rampant.  Maybe Orbit hired the idiots who did the proofreading at New Concepts Press – home of the “…… kindhearted little sole,” that is burned into my cerebral cortex forever.

If you can get past the often mediocre writing, the characters are ……………… well, let’s just say by page 200 I was wondering why I was still reading, because really, I couldn’t care less about any of these people.  A bunch of lifeless, boring, scheming, violent, murderous degenerates that mostly deserved a miserable death, a whiny ‘heroine’, a hero that I found about as exciting as a Ken doll, and all the excitement of a Falcon Crest rerun.  I love great historical fiction set in all periods, from The Black Rose, to Tai-Pan, to Aztec, to The Egyptian, historical novels can be some of the best stuff you’ll ever read.  I remember I burned dinner the day I read Shogun, I got so interested in the story!   I wouldn’t miss a ham sandwich for this thing.

But what about the story?  Jeeze.  Do you really want to know?  OK.  Venice has a Council of Ten that rule the city and its seafaring empire, such as it is.  Venice is a target for other city states in Italy, as well as jealous rivals who want their trade routes.  The heads or the Council are the mother, Duchess Alexa of the next hereditary Duke of Venice Marco IV (portrayed as a mentally deficient, though nice boy), and his uncle, Prince Alonzo, who wants control for himself.  He is marrying off Giulietta to King of Cyprus for political gain – but a rather disgusting scene, has her inseminated so she’ll arrive at her wedding pregnant and then murder her husband so Alonzo can be the defacto ruler of Cuprus.   But Prince Leopold wants Giulietta and commands the krieghunds – Wolf Brothers, or werewolves to you and me.  The Giulietta gets by the krieghunds masquerading as Moors – gets free and id found by Prince Leopold.  The krieghunds and the assassini are the two most powerful forces in Venice. The office of head Assassin answers to both Alexa and Alonzo and is held by a Moor, Atilo il Mauros.  He loses most of his assassini in the first recovery of Giulietta, but acquires a new apprentice, Tyco, a vampire.  Tyco has no memory and isn’t even aware of what he is.  Frankly, the oblique and obscure nonsense about his existence – his past and what he is, from Ragnarok to demon helps neither him nor the reader

Atilo finds Tyco after Roderigo accidentally frees him from captivity on a Moorish ship.  He has amnesia but briefly sees things in his past.  Tyco finds Giulietta in a church praying and attempting suicide.  Enter young love at first sight.  Giulietta gets kidnapped again and ends up with Prince Leopold who seems untroubled by her pregnancy and keeps her at his mainland estate till she gives birth then marries her.  Meanwhile, Atilo captures Tyco with a sliver net thanks to information from Alexa and her witch A’riel.  Despite having schemed to get engaged to Desdaio, daughter of the richest merchant in Venice, and gain a seat on the Council of Ten, Atilo starts an affair with Alexa and with Amelia, one of his female assassini – plus going to whore houses, but leaves Desdaio untouched.  (Busy gent for someone 50+ years old before Viagra.)  Dr Crow, Alonso’s wizard, places a spell on Tyco to keep him from killing his master while he’s trained as an assassini.  (Crow is also responsible for the part of the ugly artificial insemination scene involving Giulietta.)

Now, you can easily see that there are two basic types of people here – corrupt, amoral, grasping, dissolute, power mad, degenerate, morally bankrupt,  group with no redeeming qualities – which is just about everyone, and Desdaio and Giulietta, two women who have no real character other than to be sweet.  Finally we have Tyco – who is heaven knows what – but he is Fallen.  The story that revolves around him, especially his training, is flat.  By the end of the book, I just wanted everyone to die.  Gruesomely.  At my hands.  Starting with the author and publisher.

Is The Fallen Blade worth $14.99, or $10-12?  NO, not in my opinion.  If you can struggle through the opening chapters, there were parts of the book that read very well.  Unfortunately, the complete and utter lack of redeeming qualities in the characters made for a bleak and depressing story.  Plus the whole ending was an exercise in ‘What the hell just happened?’  Even the Amazon reviews are a testament to people’s very mixed reactions.  The poor editing and worse proofreading made a difficult to like book seriously annoying.

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