Tarn Richardson's The Fallen was published in 2016.
Information about Tarn Richardson:
Consisting of The Hunted (free prequel novella), The Damned (2015), The Fallen (2016) and The Risen (2017), The Darkest Hand trilogy unleashes the flawed but brilliant Inquisitor Poldek Tacit upon a Europe engulfed by the First World War. The Damned was one of the book depository's 'Books of 2015'.
Having grown up in Somerset, he now lives in Salisbury with his wife, the portraiture artist Caroline Richardson.
Click here to visit his official website.
Information about The Fallen:
1915. As the second battle of the Isonzo Front rages on the Italian Austro-Hungarian border, war threatens to engulf the Inquisition as dark forces muster amongst the most fanatical servants of the Catholic Church.
Prior to his murder, a desperate priest sends a secret letter to his brother serving in the Italian Army. Now this young soldier, destined for the horrors of a frontline high above the clouds, carries with him a letter which holds the key as to why terrible satanic rituals are being committed and by whom.
Drawn into this conspiracy and hunted by agents of The Darkest Hand, old rivals must put aside their differences to discover the contents of the letter before it's too late. But unity comes at a price for this unholy alliance. While the war rages, old enemies return from the dead and conspiracies weave tighter and deeper still into the heart of the Vatican. Only Poldek Tacit, the most determined and unhinged inquisitor of them all, can hope to push back the forces 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?
A REVIEW OF TARN RICHARDSON'S THE FALLEN
Because Tarn Richardson's The Damned was a pleasant surprise for me, I was eager to read The Fallen. I'm pleased to say that The Fallen is just as impressive, complex and well-researched historical horror-fantasy novel as The Damned. I was thoroughly impressed by its dark and thrilling story.
The Fallen is an excellent and satisfying addition to the Darkest Hand Trilogy, because it's a direct sequel to The Damned and continues the complex story arc in a compelling way. It's one of the best new speculative fiction novels for adult readers, because it has everything one could ever hope to find in a historical horror-fantasy novel: it's gory, fast-paced, complex, gritty and satisfyingly dark.
Just like The Damned, I consider this novel to be a rare treasure that is mandatory reading material to everyone who loves well written speculative fiction with horror and dark fantasy elements. It's an entertaining and highly enjoyable novel that should not be missed by those who enjoy dark fiction.
Although this novel contains many familiar and well-known elements, Tarn Richardson's way of writing about them feels wonderfully fresh. The author masterfully combines action, horror, fantasy and historical fiction elements and blurs the lines between them to create a memorable reading experience. There's an irresistibly wild and furious feel to the story that forces readers to devour the whole novel as quickly as possible.
In the previous novel, the author established a good foundation for his story arc and now he concentrates on delivering more action and makes the story more intriguing and suspenseful (this novel has more of everything that made the first novel excellent). Everyone who has read The Damned will be pleased with this development in the storytelling, because it feels natural and immerses the readers immediately into the happenings.
Here's a bit of information about the story:
- The events take place in various places around Europe during the early 20th century at the time of the First World War.
- In the prologue, the events take place in Bulgaria in 1877. A party of Catholic priests gazes at a nightmarish and gory sight before them. They perform a dark ritual and make a human sacrifice to summon evil forces to this world... Elsewhere, Eryk helps his wife, Zofia, to give birth to their son. Eryk decides to name his son Poldek Tacit.
- In Rome in 1915, Inquisitor Cincenzo knows that he is going to die soon. He has been looking for information and what he has found, terrifies him. He knows that he has to get a word to those who have sensed the darkness and banded together in secret to face it and warn them that about The Darkest Hand and their death grip upon the world. Soon he is shot by one of his chasers.
- Sister Isabella witnesses how Inquisitor Cincenzo dies and hears him mouth the word Tacit. She flees from the scene and is pursued by the Inquisitors.
- Tacit has been imprisoned and tortured for nine months in Toulouse Inquisitional Prison. He thinks about what led him to the prison cell and hears demonic voices that are compelling him to rise and act.
- Cardinal Bishop Adansoni is determined to get Tacit freed from the prison, because he thinks that Tacit saved many lives by killing a Cardinal Bishop who was about to commit a horrible mass murder and unleash carnage at the Mass for Peace.
- Possessions are occurring everywhere...
I'd love to write more about the happenings in this novel, but - in fear of writing severe spoilers - I'll only mention that various plot threads lead towards an excellent ending, because everything culminates in the amazing finale on the Italian Front. I can assure that the ending is worth waiting for and the journey towards the ending is rewarding.
Just like in The Damned, the characterisation is excellent and engaging. I like the author's way of creating characters who have their own characteristics, feelings and flaws, because he makes his characters and their motives believable. He expertly uses his cast of characters to tell the story and leaves no characters as by-standers; every character has a role to play in this story.
Here are a few words about some of the characters:
- Poldek Tacit is a complex, interesting and well-created character, because he is anything but perfect. He's a determined, experienced and disturbed inquisitor who has seen all kinds of horrors and doesn't shy away from using violence as a tool to solve problems. His actions have led him to prison where is being tortured and experimented upon by his torturers. The prophecy involving Poldek Tacit adds fascination to the storyline, because he clearly has a role to play in the terrifying events. He's the kind of anti-hero that many readers will root for, because he's something different.
- Sister Isabella is an interesting nun, because she works for the Chaste and tests the faith of wayward Priests or Priests who are suspected of failing their vows in chastity. She has not forgotten what happened when she met Tacit, and she has a lot to think about when she finds out what is going on.
- Sandrine Prideux is not happy about what happened at the Mass for Peace, because her plans were ruined. Her plans might have changed everything, but they failed. She tries to stop a dangerous enemy - The Darkest Hand - that is very powerful and has polluted many men with its influence. Henry Frost helps her.
- Salamanca is a well-created torturer, because he tortures Tacit in the prison and enjoys it immensely. He revels at seeing how Tacit suffers and he tries to break his victim by doing extremely nasty things to him. He has orders from the Vatican to perform trials on Tacit and he gladly follows the orders.
I was deeply impressed by the author's writing skills and engaging writing style, because he writes fluent and descriptive prose that is a pleasure to read. He weaves elements of the First World War into his story with precision and pays attention to many details. He also easily creates a dark atmosphere and leads his readers into a slightly alternate world where the supernatural powerfully clashes with terrifying wartime horrors.
This novel is wonderfully gory and has many gruesome scenes that will satisfy the appetites of those who want blood and gore from their speculative fiction stories. I found these scenes fascinatingly explicit and unsettling, because the author doesn't shy away gory and violent elements. It's great that the author does not use them merely as decoration like many other authors do, but incorporates them powerfully into his story.
The dark rituals are simply amazing, because the author does his best to create a dark atmosphere that almost oozes out of the pages. Because I've always loved reading about dark rituals and human sacrifices in dark fantasy and horror novels, I was thrilled to read about them. I also enjoyed reading about the demonic possessions, blood-running fountains and monstrous children, because they heralded the coming of evil and added creepiness to the story.
This novel has many excellent scenes. One of them is Tacit's escape from the Toulouse Inquisitional Prison, because the author has come up with an impressive way to get him out of there.
The scenes in which Tacit is tortured are powerful and repulsive. They reveal how the Inquisitors torture their prisoners and try to break them. I think it's good to mention that if you're easily shocked, these brutal and ghastly scenes may cause you discomfort.
The strikingly hellish and nightmarish sights on the battlefields are filled with blood, gore and slaughter. I find these scenes Gothic in their grandness and explicitness. The author's perception of what is needed to write these scenes is impeccable, because he has a sense of harsh realism and - what's best - he avoids glorification of violence.
I love the author's vision of Hombre Lobo, the werewolves, and the mythology surrounding them, because Catholic Church is to blame for their existence. They're the Church's darkest secret, because they've been excommunicated for daring to defy the Church and cursed to walk as men during the day while transforming into wolves at night.
I enjoy the author's way of writing about religious elements, because they're intriguing and thought-provoking. He never preaches about anything, which is great, because I detest novels in which authors end up preaching about religious elements and church issues. As I mentioned in my review of The Damned, the author's way of writing about religious elements is similar to Teresa Frochok's way of examining them in her Miserere: An Autumn Tale.
The machinations of the Catholic Church are brought to life in a vivid way in this novel. I enjoyed reading about how the leading figures of the Church were not afraid of manipulating events and people, but ruthlessly did their deeds. I think that many readers will find what the corrupted Priests do very intriguing, because they're orchestrating conflicts to further their own dark goals and prepare the way for the coming of great evil. They don't hesitate to do brutal deeds and kill people.
One of the best things about this novel is that it contains many surprises. The author delivers twists and turns in a fascinating way and makes sure that his readers find the story compelling. It was intriguing for me to read about how old and bitter enemies joined forces in order to fight against a common threat, because everything had changed.
When you begin to read this novel, you'll immediately get a feeling that Tarn Richardson has spent a lot of time on researching many things and historical details. It's great that the author concentrates on getting all the details right, because it truly makes a difference in this kind of fiction.
Tarn Richardon's evocative writing style is one of the main reasons why this novel is such an outstanding achievement in dark fiction and why I love it so much. It's amazing how effortlessly the author keeps up tension, intensifies the atmosphere and writes about the many happenings in a descriptive way. He's a first-rate storyteller who evokes a distinct sense of time and place with his prose.
It's a bit difficult to compare this novel to other novels, but the closest resemblances are Teresa Frochok's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, Mark A. Latham's Apollonian Casefiles novels and Stephanie Burgis' historical fantasy novels. If you've read any of these novels, you'll love this novel. I'm sure that horror readers will especially love this novel, because it's various elements will please readers who enjoy dark and gritty stories.
I have yet to read the final novel in this trilogy, but based on The Damned and The Fallen, I can say that The Darkest Hand Trilogy is clearly one of the best achievements in modern speculative fiction. It's head and shoulders above most novels that have been published during the recent years, because it's fresh, exciting and incredibly well written. It combines elements ranging from history and religion to horror and fantasy in a highly enjoyable way.
If you're looking for a good, addictive and well written horror-fantasy novel, I advise you to take a look at Tarn Richardson's The Fallen, because it's a fully satisfying reading experience. It's one of the utmost best historical horror-fantasy novels I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Please, do yourself a big favour and read this amazing novel (and its predecessor too) - believe me when I say that you don't want to miss this story.