Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Book Review: Fell
by David Clement-Davies
The black wolf Fell is a Kerl, a loner, who lives without a pack in the mountains of Transylvania. The darkness that he experienced in his youth drove him away from his pack in search of answers, and for years he has wandered the mountains alone, studying man. Fell has the Sight, an ability to see into other places and times and into the minds of other animals, which often seems more like a curse than a gift.
Alina is a girl disguised as a boy, living as a poorly-treated servant with a shepherd couple, Malduk and Ranna, who found her as a small child. They've told her that she's a changeling, and that it's essential that she disguise herself as a boy so that the fairies and goblins don't take her back. When Alina discovers that Malduk and Ranna lied about her past, the couple turn on her and she must flee for her life.
Struggling for her life in the Transylvanian winter, Alina encounters Fell. Though they are from two different worlds, Alina and Fell can communicate through the Sight. The two of them set off together to find the answers that they so desperately need. Alina is searching for home and family and the keys to her past, a past that somehow involves the evil Lord Vladeran. Fell seeks to understand his visions of the future and his shared destiny with Alina. The future of the world may depend on the choices that the two of them make.
Fell is a beautifully written book. Clement-Davies' skillful use of language and lovely metaphors bring to life the land of Transylvania in the 15th century, its people, and the lives of the wolves. Although the Sight adds a mystical element to the books, and Fell is able to communicate with Alina, the wolves are depicted realistically for the most part, and don't think or act like humans. One of the best scenes in the book is the scene when Alina meets Fell. The differences between wolf and human are starkly depicted in this scene, and the two of them must somehow find a way to bridge that vast gap. Although Fell ends up helping Alina, he is never domesticated, and the reader is left with an impression of wild power barely contained.
Fell is a sequel to The Sight, although I think it probably stands pretty well alone. In fact, Fell is a very different book from The Sight. Whereas the first book was told exclusively from the point of view of the wolves, Fell alternates between Fell's and Alina's point of view. Personally, I liked Fell much better; I could relate more to Alina's story, and I didn't find it as dark a book as The Sight. But fans of The Sight may be disappointed if they come to the book expecting it to follow in its predecessor's footsteps.
Through Alina and Fell, Clement-Davies explores philosophical questions such as the relationship between man and nature, the meaning of life and death, and whether we are trapped by destiny and myth or whether we can affect the future by our choices. Such philosophical questions play a role, but don't overwhelm the story as they sometimes threaten to do in The Sight. And neither the rich language nor the philosophical underpinnings slow down the story, which is interesting and moves along quite well.
Like its predecessor The Sight, Fell is a complex book that will be challenging for some readers. However, the interesting characters, rich setting, and exciting story make this a book well worth reading.