a review by Evie Kendal
Rise of the Fallen is the first book of a new paranormal young adult series focusing on the battle between good and evil, angels and demons. The first section of the book is almost entirely exposition and outlines the hierarchy of demonic beings: 1st – the strongest demons (led by the fallen Angel of Death, Samael), 2nd – the legion of high-level demons, 3rd – the shape-shifting demons (those that can shift into any form, and not just humans as the other demons can do), 4th and 5th – lower-level demons who feed off the power of higher-level demons, 6th – demonic children cherished by Samael’s lover, Lilith, and 7th – the weakest demons, vampyres (created by Lilith). The backstory relates that Samael seized power over the demons by killing Lucifer and then took the seductress, Lilith, to be his consort. Her rise from lowly vampyre to the head of the ruling demon class is established as a source of mystery – however, it is not particularly intriguing at the beginning of the narrative. The mention of her powerful half-angel, half-demon daughter, Zaida, on the other hand does capture the reader’s attention, as do the only “Elementals” (neutral beings with the power to control the elements) ever to escape demon capture, Emilie and Cael.
While the background knowledge provided in this introductory section may be important for understanding the fictional world built for the story, I would have much preferred to see the definitions and descriptions worked into the narrative (possibly with a glossary of terms provided as a reference at the back of the book). As it is, however, the opening of the book is likely to lose a lot of readers before they even progress to the main text. For those that do continue to Chapter One, the melodramatic high school angst may be a little jarring after the epic heaven-and-hell beginning. Nevertheless there is enough interest generated for the non-human, not-dating-but-not-dating-anyone-else best friends, Emilie and Cael, to entice the reader to proceed to Chapter Two.
Overall the plot of Rise of the Fallen tracks Emilie and Cael as they fight to stay ahead of the demons wanting to drag them back down to the underworld, while also trying to negotiate new political power structures. While parts of the story are interesting, the usual questions remain: Why is it immortals never seem to have anything more exciting to do with their given eternity than attend the local high school? If such immortals have been learning for centuries why have they still never managed to grasp fundamental maths? Or, as Buffy’s Cordelia Chase would ask: Why haven’t they learnt the value of a decent stock portfolio? Finally, and most importantly for a paranormal romance, after centuries of practice at romantic relationships, why is it none of them have learnt basic communication skills?
Throughout the novel Emilie’s multitudinous romantic interests highlight her naiveté and lack of self-preservation. She is plagued by over-protective males who all have different motives for their interest in her, however, the decisions she makes that are meant to demonstrate independence seem to undermine any empowering message because she often chooses incorrectly. Having said this, a female protagonist in a young adult series who isn’t entirely sexually repressed is refreshing, and the Australian setting for the novel gives it some originality when compared to similar works.
When it comes to recommending this novel to any particular readership, I am struck with certain difficulties. Anyone who does not like paranormal young adult fiction will obviously have no interest in it, however, those who love the genre will most likely experience the same odd sensation I had while reading it – that there is something off about the narrative. It’s hard to pinpoint what it is, but there is something unsatisfying about the way the story is written and the flavour doesn’t seem quite right. The fictional world has definite potential though, so I will reserve judgment on the series as a whole until I have read more instalments.
Despite certain weaknesses, this novel represents a significant achievement for its young author. Teagan Chilcott is an award-winning author at the tender age of 19.