East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Imperial plots: Devin Madson’s “In Shadow We Fall”

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After too many weeks during which writing had felt like a lost art to me, writing a 3000-words historical article in one afternoon was a great way to clean the rust off the engines, and show I can still do it, and it’s fun. So while new projects shift and move around, I decided to celebrate my renewed energies, and bought myself an ebook.

One of the best things of the last few years is the increasing number of fantasies being published that break away from the standard European model, roughly Tolkienesque or Howardian, and choose an Eastern setting.

And I will not be the one that complains – first, because as an Orientalist Anonymous, I have always loved Eastern fantasies and have written some myself (and I hope to write more), but also, variety is always a sign of good health – and if the field is in good health, we have all reason to be happy.

A sign of the good health currently favoring the fantasy genre is certainly Devin Madson’s novella In Shadow We Fall, that reads as a stand-alone but is also a prequel to Madson’s longer works. Indeed, I selected this title because it intrigued me, just as the whole of this writer’s catalogue intrigues me – and before going and starting a massive trilogy or two, one feels like trying the water at the shallow end of the pool. Sad as this can sound, I am not getting any younger, and time is becoming a precious commodity that I shall invest wisely.

But In Shadows We Fall is an excellent way to spend a bit of that precious time, and has sold me the rest of Madson’s books – I’ll try and read through her catalog during 2021.

Set in a somewhat Chinese empire (but very much its own place), Madson’s novella offers 100-odd pages of intrigue, homicide, plots and counterplots, as an Imperial consort fallen from grace tries to fight her way to safety, dragging almost as an afterthought the whole of the empire along with her towards what she hopes might be a better place.

The construction of the plot is smart and savvy, the politics simple but believable, the world sketched in a very engaging way. This is a fast read that leaves us wanting for more – and as I said, there’s a lot more where this one came from.
A perfect read for the weekend, while the countryside is shrouded in mist and cold as some strange pagan hell, In Shadows We Fall is highly recommended if you feel like a change of scenery.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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