The Fall (The Seventh Tower) by Garth Nix

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The Fall (The Seventh Tower) by Garth Nix

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: The first book in a pacy and enjoyable fantasy series for 9s and up, set in a world of perpetual darkness. This one sets the scene for five further books about two children trying to protect their world's way of life.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 219 Date: March 2007
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
ISBN: 0007261195

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The Dark World is blocked from the Sun by an enchanted Veil created by Tal's forebears to protect it from the creatures who inhabit Aenir - a spirit land full of magic and magical beasts. Aenir is lit and warmed by the Sun, but the Dark World uses sunstones - crystals grown and charged with light and heat in Aenir. Inhabitants of the Dark World take more than just sunstones from this land; they also bind some of its creatures to themselves as spiritshadows or spiritguards. Every member of the top echelon of Dark World society - the Chosen - must have a spiritshadow and a sunstone, or risk ejection from privilege and into the ranks of the Underfolk.

And this is Tal's problem. The Day of Ascension is rapidly approaching and Tal must enter Aenir to find a spiritshadow of his own. If he fails, his destiny will lie with the Underfolk - and as his father has recently disappeared, it's not just Tal who will suffer, it's his mother, his sister and his brother too. But Tal has no primary sunstone to aid him in Aenir - when his father disappeared, so did the family's source of light and heat. There's nothing for it except theft...

... and theft leads Tal into a part of the Dark World he knows nothing about. It's full of ice, monsters and female warriors - one of whom, Milla, isn't in the least impressed to meet one of the Chosen.

You can't fail to like Monsieur Nix. He's one of those writers who just gets on with it. The Seventh Tower series, of which The Fall is the first, originally, as I recall, had something to do with George Lucas and was written very quickly. But it doesn't feel like that. Perhaps it is a little bit too episodic to be completely satisfying and perhaps the plot is a teensy bit thin for two hundred or so pages, but the action comes thick and fast, the worldbuilding is utterly convincing, and the characters are three-dimensional. The whole thing is absolutely satisfying. You get the feeling Nix has dozens more worlds like this teeming around inside his head and could write you a series about any one of them in a matter of months. And children would love whichever one he decided to choose.

The picaresque side to this particular story is borne by Tal. He is naive and untested. He is also ignorant of much that goes on his own world. His story is one of self-awakening. Milla, on the other hand, is unhappily aware of injustice and inequality. She is the one who needs to learn tolerance, understanding, and trust. The Fall spends most of its pages in creating its world and in setting up this pivotal relationship between two very disparate children whose joint destiny holds the very existence of the Dark World in its hands.

The writing is, as ever, direct, forceful and resonant. There's no pretension, and the world Nix creates is full of magic and the supernatural, but always inhabits an immediately recognisable emotional landscape. Children identify fully with the protagonists and enjoy the monstrous and outlandish in safety. This series isn't quite as good as Abhorsen, but it won't fail to entertain.

My thanks to the nice people at Harper Collins for sending the book.

Junior fantasy quest fans might also enjoy Firestorm by Mark Robson.

Garth Nix's The Seventh Tower Series in Chronological Order

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Magda said:

Oh, it's another one of those Murphy jobs that make me want to hide under the sofa and never write another review again. She's getting better and better.

Sue (leaning down and poking under the sofa with a stick) said:

Come on! Those reviews don't write themselves!