Heroes of the Fallen is an engrossing tale of the decline and fall of a great civilization, of the Nehpites and Lamanites, a people from a time known only through myth and oral tradition. This is a first novel by David J. West and doesn’t disappoint. It is an intriguing story set in an alternate history version of ancient America replete with strong elements of fantasy.
I have never read a novel drawn from ideas relevant to the Book of Mormon, nor realized a sub-culture of material based on that particular work existed. That is, until now. It was my unfamiliarity with this concept that confused me at first, as I recognized various elements in Heroes of the Fallen from history, though they made no sense when placed in historical context. I should note that The Book of Mormon is accepted as fact by some, though archaeologists dispute the possibility America was settled by refugees from the Middle East some 2500 years ago. Still, it is an interesting concept and fertile ground for creative ideas, as this book more than proves.
Scholarly conjecture aside, Heroes of the Fallen works best as an homage to heroic fantasy, the type of fantasy one would expect in works by Gemmell, Erikson, Burroughs and Howard, the type of fantasy bursting with larger-than-life characters and lush, exotic imagery.
In his work West paints a vivid picture, using deft strokes to create grand cities, decadent by nature, populated by corrupt leaders and their cronies, doing what they do best, practice back-stabbing politics and weave tangled webs of deceit. Add in less than honourable factions struggling for supremacy, set it against a backdrop of large scale events far beyond their control, and you have a tale sure to please (alt) historical or fantasy readers alike.
West has populated Heroes of the Fallen with an extensive cast of larger than life characters, each well-developed and vividly portrayed. They are good and evil, hero and villain, the faithful and faithless, innocent and guilty. These characters live and breath, leaping from the page to fire the imagination and journey through interweaving plotlines, gripping adventures and quests of discovery, each possessing their own agenda and near impossible goals. Here you find Bethia, an independent-minded daughter of a prophet who naively seeks an idyllic life in a land filled with deceit and war. Or there is Captain Amaron and his Scouts, Zelph the White Lamanite and the Lamanite general, Anathoth, each with their own role to play in this complex drama.
Heroes of the Fallen is the first in a series. The sequel, Blood of our Fathers, should arrive sometime in 2011. If you like rich fantasy, strong characters and vibrant descriptions, then this book comes highly recommended.