Let me just throw this out there: I love dystopian books.
A few other things you might want to know about me is 1) I love science fiction, 2) I love the conflict of man against nature gone wrong, and 3) I love a hearty romance thrown in there for good measure. Fallen had all of these ingredients, and more.
In Fallen, author Traci L. Slatton has built a world where noxious mists have killed off a goodly number of the earth’s inhabitants, dissolved much of its commerce, and crippled civilization to the point where humans are forced to live as they had before the industrial revolution. Horses are again the mode of transportation, and those who’ve survived have had to learn to scavenge abandoned communities for food, or to live off the land again.
A New Yorker stranded in Paris, Emma, the book’s heroine has by default become the caregiver of seven other children besides her own child, Mandy. Through ingenuity and a bit of luck, they have learned to avoid the mists for a little over a year together in the Parisian countryside. The story opens with Emma believing that Mandy is about to breathe in and be consumed by the mist. As this harrowing situation plays out, a miraculous thing happens–a band of men on horseback ride up and drive the mist away.
Since the proliferation of the mists, human beings have acquired abilities they didn’t have before. For example, Emma has healing properties in her hands, her daughter Mandy sees shadows of people who’ve been in places before, and her charge Newt is psychic and sees the future. Armed with knowledge from Newt that these men are good and not a group of marauders that rape women and kill children like some, Emma decides to proposition their leader, Arthur for food and shelter for her and the children.
Arthur agrees on the condition that she doesn’t expect commitment and doesn’t nag him. The story unfolds as Emma and her children assimilate into the camp community these men have created. Heretofore, the men kept to themselves out of fear that the mists might make them do unspeakable things to women and children. However, over time Arthur and his men grow to appreciate having a woman and children around, and learn to live fairly well in this post-apocalyptic society.
The conflict in the story is caused by nature, by desperate people, by family thought to be dead still alive, and by old grudges borne by another charismatic leader who wants Arthur to suffer as much as he has. As the daily lives of the people in Arthur’s camp unfold, we get to see a relationship grow between Emma and the camp leader that neither of them expected. Word spreads that a woman who can heal is among the people of Arthur’s camp and this gift unwittingly makes Emma a target.
Will Emma be able to avoid being taken by other camps who covet her service? Or will she be lost to Arthur for an entirely different reason?
Full of action, adventure and a very intelligent read, I absolutely loved this story. There were only one or two things I could nitpick about it. The first being: although this is a dystopian trilogy, it is billed as a romance. The love that grows between Emma and Arthur is epic in nature and that should have been shown more. Most of their intimate moments were of the “fade to black” variety. As this is an adult dystopian book, I certainly could’ve handled a few more of their sexy times together. The emotion underlying could certainly have been shown more, as well.
The second was the handling of Mandy as Emma’s child by a husband she’s certain is still alive, yet there was no treatment of exactly how Emma explained her behavior with Arthur to this child. As time went on, she didn’t try to hide the fact that she slept in the tent with Arthur, nor did they hide their PDA from the children. It just would have been nice for that bit of conflict to be handled in some way and not ignored.
Fallen ends in a place where you know there will be a sequel, and this was fine by me, because I wasn’t ready to let go of this world Traci L. Slatton had created so beautifully.
I give Fallen 4.5 out of 5 Stars!
ABOUT TRACI L. SLATTON:
Traci L. Slatton is a graduate of Yale and Columbia, where she taught freshman composition.
She lives in Manhattan, though her love for Renaissance Italy inspired her historical novel Immortal [Bantam Dell], which is currently in film pre-production and reached bestseller status in Italy, Russia and Brazil. Also the author of The Botticelli Affair and the After trilogy (Fallen, Cold Light and Far Shore [forthcoming late spring 2013]), Slatton has published The Art of Life, a photo essay about figurative sculpture; a book of poetry; as well as a non-fiction title on science and spirituality, Piercing Time & Space. Her forthcoming novel, The Mission, is a meaty historical saga set during World War II.