In Kel Kade’s Fate of the Fallen, the world is ending. Its only hope is Mathias, the Chosen One foretold by prophecy. Mathias is charismatic, endowed with beautiful golden locks, skilled in all forms of combat and well-versed in magic spells.
But this novel isn’t about him.
Kade overturns the Chosen One trope, suggesting it’s implausible for an entire world’s fate to rest on a single person. Because what happens when the Chosen One fails? The book’s answer is Aaslo, an introverted woodsman and best friend to Mathias who would rather spend his time nurturing saplings than among his fellow humans. But the fate of the world is at stake, so Aaslo reluctantly undertakes a quest to save it.
Although Aaslo has always lived in Mathias’ shadow, he makes a decent hero himself. He’s handsome, unflappable, handy with an axe and recognizes he might need some help fighting evil. Along the way, Aaslo gathers a motley crew, including two street rats, a former mage-in-training-turned barmaid, an unhelpful prophet and an idiot horse.
The colorful supporting characters succeed in fleshing out Aaslo’s personal development and bringing witty banter to the journey. Some also deliver fresh takes on tired fantasy tropes, like the barmaid who possesses a rather convoluted backstory involving plagiarism in magic school. But others, such as the reluctant prophet and the street rats, fit cookie cutter molds and don’t grow as characters. It’s unclear whether this was a conscious decision on Kade’s part to make them caricatures, but it does cause some interactions to become gratingly repetitive.
The novel also introduces Myropa, a reaper tasked with shuttling deceased souls to the afterlife. Through Myropa, we glimpse several gods (of the Greek pantheon-esque variety) who are pulling the strings behind the world’s ending. Myropa’s backstory and personality become more engaging as the narrative progresses, and gods’ interactions help fill in the world the characters inhabit. The gods’ subplot gets stuck in petty bickering at times, though, which only muddles the urgency of humanity’s ultimate fate.
But when the narrative follows Aaslo and company, the fast-paced action and humorous dialogue keeps the story moving at a brisk pace—except for some uneven plot points. The protagonists are always traveling somewhere, but it’s unclear how they intend to save the world. Kade punctuates the story with multiple high-stakes action sequences and battle scenes, but it’s difficult to point to a single climactic event with a resolution. Even the ending resolves too quickly. Fate of the Fallen is only the first installment in Kade’s Shroud of Prophecy series, however, so we’ll likely see these characters again soon.
Fate of the Fallen may have a somewhat meandering plot, but its characters and clever dialogue make it a fun reimagining of a tired fantasy trope.
Jane Huang is a neuroscience PhD student by day and a freelance writer by night. She currently lives in Pittsburgh, PA.