#SPFBO Review (2): The Fall of Erlon (Falling Empires Saga #1) by Robert H Fleming

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.  Stage 1 is now complete and the finalists can be found here. My first finalist review can be found here.

FallofToday I’m posting my review for the second SPFBO finalist that I’ve read – The Fall of Erlon by Robert H Fleming.  This was an interesting read in that it steps away from the often used mediaeval fantasy setting and instead opts for a flintlock style with an alternative Napoleonic history.  The story very much focuses on military strategy and warfare with a fairly low fantasy feel (at the moment at least) involving interference from Gods and manipulation and use of animals such as birds (that share a connection with their handler allowing the person to literally experience a ‘bird’s eye view’ of things).  There are references to sorcery and sorcerers but magic is not really used during the course of the story (although the epilogue shows promise for more in further instalments).  At this point I enjoyed Fall of Erlon although I did have a few issues that I will get to below.

In terms of plot. Well, we start out with the failing Empire, an Emperor in exile and armies advancing on Erlon.  The Emperor’s daughter (Elisa) has been placed in a safe house of sorts and the Emperor’s wife (a sorcerer) is also missing.  The advancing armies, which combine allies from different countries, are on the march and Erlon is about to crumble under the force.  On top of this, one of the forces in particular is determined to find Elisa and the main focus of the book revolves around this pursuit.

In terms of characters I’ll point out a few for easy reference.  We have HRH King Nelson of Brun who spends the majority of the book in discussion with the exiled Emperor Lannes (master strategist and much beloved and respected by his people).  Elisa Lannes, daughter to the Emperor and Princess of Erlon who will, prompted by guidance from a God-like apparition, flee her home.  Prince Rapp of Wahring whose father King Charles currently leads a coalition of Brunian and Wahring forces on to the city of Erlon. Scythe Commander Andrei who leads an elite force in secret search of the Princess, Andrei is one of the Kurakins, currently allied with the other forces against Erlon.  The Scythes have a terrible reputation, elite soldiers made more fearsome by their pointed teeth and the vicious Wolverines that they ride upon.  Marshal Alexandre Lauriston, the Emperor’s most trusted leader and his counterpoint General Pitt who rides with King Charles but despairs a little about the progress they make.

Now, as you can see from the above, and I may have made this seem over complicated in which case apologies, there are a number of characters to take on board (in fact there are two other POVs that I haven’t mentioned at this point as their parts are fairly small), not to mention a lot of history and geography to absorb, so whilst this started out really well I did feel that things slowed down a little as I tried to take everything on board.  Essentially though this story focuses very much on Elisa, her flight from the enemies who seek her and the help she encounters along the way so I think you need to keep that in mind whilst reading.

In terms of what I liked here.  Obviously some of the characters appealed to me more than others and the last 30% or so really helped in that respect as the pacing picked up and the stakes became higher.  Each character has their own well defined role to play which is built upon as the treachery begins.  I think the writing is easy to get along with and considering how much information and history there is to be delivered the author does a remarkable job of keeping the page count under control.  In fact, if anything, I would say this could have been lengthened slightly.  I really like the setting and alternate history feel although I confess I’m no expert on the Napoleonic wars so any possible parallels here would be lost on me and so I’m not going into much detail in that respect. I’m also intrigued by the concept here – it’s more than a simple war or take over because there’s the whole mystery of why Elisa is so important to the overall outcome and what role the magic will eventually play – and whether that will work out well or not.

Now, in terms of criticisms.  Well, I think this may be a little over ambitious in terms of povs and whilst I understand the need for some of these in order to take onboard things happening in a large landscape,for me, some of the characters didn’t feel totally distinct, there were muddied lines and very similar feelings, particularly by way of insecurities and doubts.  I think rather than including more and more viewpoints in order to let the reader see what was taking place across the empire, I would perhaps have preferred interludes or field reports, or some such device instead.  I also felt like there was a bit of repetition in the first two thirds of the book where we jumped from character to character as they moved forward on the map but with some of the chapters feeling very similar to what had come before.  In this way I think some of the tension and fear was lost a little for me.  I think, what I’m trying to say, in a very round the houses fashion, is I would have preferred to really focus on a few of these characters and develop stronger feelings for them.  I also didn’t really enjoy the ‘summit’ storyline – I understand the purpose of it being included – but, it didn’t bring a great deal to the story in my opinion or at least the overall point seemed a little too obvious for me.

Overall, I enjoyed The Fall of Erlon and given the ending would be interested to see what happens next particularly as much of the mystery remains unsolved and there is still so much potential to explore.

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars or 7 out of 10

My thanks to the author for providing a copy for review, the above is my own opinion.

23 Responses to “#SPFBO Review (2): The Fall of Erlon (Falling Empires Saga #1) by Robert H Fleming”

  1. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Interesting… The premise does somehow remind me of Brian McClellan’s Power Mage trilogy as far as the setting goes, although I understand your problem with too many points of view which might be difficult to handle for an emerging author…

    • @lynnsbooks

      To be fair I think he did an excellent job, but, I think having two many povs can be difficult for even the most seasoned author. This is a good story and I will definitely continue and yes, I think comparisons to the Powder Mage trilogy are quite likely although I haven’t read that series so not sure how similar they are.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Ooh, flintlock style! I’m interested already because of that. Like maddalena I was also reminded of the Powder Mage series.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I don’t know how this will compare to the Powder Mage.I thought it made a good start, I did have issues but at the same time I would like to read more to see what the author does next.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Greg

    Well this sounds interesting! I like the sound of the flintlock setting. It does sound like it could be a little more focused in terms of the POV’s- sometimes less is more. But all in all seems like it has a lot of potential!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It definitely has potential and was a good read. It, for me, suffers from a little over ambition but you can’t really fault an author for having huge ideas and hopes.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Tammy

    The idea about the birds and being able to see a birds eye view sounds so familiar. I might have read a book with a similar idea.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, I’ve definitely read something similar before but can’t think for the life of me where atm. Ohh, I know – Rebecca Roanhorse’s recent novel – Black Sun?

  5. #SPFBO – Not a Review : Finalist Reading Schedule, Book #3 | Books and travelling with Lynn

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  6. sjhigbee

    I am not a fan of books with lots of different viewpoint characters – very few authors can really pull it off successfully and I don’t have much tolerance for the inevitable repetitions and cris-crossing over the same narrative arc that you described in your excellent and very fair-minded review. Though I do love the sound of the flintlock era – which is where Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Guns of the Dawn is set. And that is simply brilliant…

    • @lynnsbooks

      Ohh, a Tchaikovsky that I will definitely pick up.
      Yes, I think there were maybe too many povs here and although I understand why – it is difficult to pull off.
      Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        Yep. Having too many povs is one of the chief reasons I DNF a book… And the Guns of Dawn is Tchaikovsky at his shiny best, in my opinion.

      • @lynnsbooks

        Good to hear 😀

  7. waytoofantasy

    Glad you mostly enjoyed this one. Looks like it picked up near the end. Looking forward to the rest of SPFBO!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It was good. I did have a few issues here and there but nothing that made it difficult to read.
      Lynn 😀

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