Anita's Haven

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A WHISPER IN THE SHADOWS, book 1 by Tom Fallwell – my review no.56

on 13/06/2016

Author Tom Fallwell has created a dangerous, wonderful and intriguing world, right down to its calendar, history and scents. Fantasy fans will relish the detailed tapestry of characters, customs and lands in this story. True, paralels can always be drawn between our world and this one, but it is precisely why stories and fiction exist – to help us deal with reality. And what better way to find yourself than to lose yourself in fantasy once in a while!

You may wonder what exciting and mythical things may be in store for a bunch of rangers, but nothing is ever what it seems. Even the title of the book bears a mystery, soon discovered, but reaching its true potential in the very end (wait for it, as I am avoiding spoilers here).


Despite the apparent lack of spectacular events in the beginning (do not be intimidated by the geographical and historical data of Hir presented by the author at the start), the further I moved into the plot, the more I found myself wanting to read on. There is a steady pace of intensity, no huge epic battles in the first half of the book, not too many characters and creatures to get lost in, but enough to keep you interested and involved. I liked that. It is, after all, a ranger’s tale, not an elf’s or a king’s, so the slight down-to-earth feel to the story is natural. But do not think there is lack of magic, superhero courage or peculiar events and creatures. On the contrary! They are merely introduced with a sense of measure, not to overwhelm and drown the characters in ‘special effects’. What starts off as a simple rescue mission to save a kidnapped princess, soon develops into a myriad of complications and a world-threatening power struggle, selflessly suffered by the heroes and heroines.

The characters, in my opinion, are the true wealth of the story. The romantic couple is strong, each with a formidable personality and skillset. The chemistry set between Baric and Raimerestha (or Whisper) is instantly clear, and even predictable, but I love that sort of romantic notion, of a contrasting couple joined through turmoil.  Baric is an unassuming, strong and unavoidable hero, set in his ways but open-minded, whereas Whisper is wonderfully incomplete, unaware of her true potential and she grows throughout the story. Even the nickname is perfect!

“She looked over to Baric again. “I am not a warrior as you would consider. I fight from the shadows and with deception. Not face-to-face, as I am sure you do.”


This is really intelligent writing with attention to detail, not only in descriptions, but also the behaviour of characters. Here is an example.

“He could see the slight fluctuations of the irises in her eyes, the almost imperceptible twitch at the corner of her mouth. ”

The rangers and minor characters are all memorable and never overshadowed by magnificent and frightful beasts or magic. I truly enjoyed Tom Fallwell’s depiction of the mindset of the Rangers as they set out on a quest together. He manages to portray the brotherly pack mentality with loyalty and discipline, without wasting words. The Wolf-Bear relationship is one we expect and look forward to in adventure stories, and wish for in real life.

The creatures, architecture and nature are wonderfully painted, both fascinating and horrifying, and the action scenes are spectacular, especially as the story progresses. I found the scene of Baric fighting a lion particularly dramatic and almost movie like in its graphic quality. It might also make a good plot for a video game. What adds to the strength of the scene is the fact that it’s the first time Baric sees a lion and he is not on familiar ground. And this scene is only a hint of the cliffhanger moments to follow.

The author’s style gets better and stronger as you read on, as if he himself was more and more immersed in the story. The second half of the book, will have you biting your nails and hating to leave the book to go to work. It will make you dizzy and have you rooting for the characters, and leave you wanting for a sequel once you reach the ending.

I love a story which occasionaly has such powerful or lovely lines which don’t deter you from the story, but shine through and can even stand alone. One of my favourites is:

“she was having a hard time trying to act superior around a man that seemed not to care about such things.”

The main thing fantasy should do is make you feel as if you are there, make you want to follow the characters on their adventure, help them out and visit those worlds again. Tom Fallwell’s world has that inspiring, inviting quality. You can compare it to other famous fantasy authors – the key object being an item of ultimate power which must be destroyed, the brotherhood of rangers led by a tiny being to save the world, etc., but comparing does not diminish the strength this story carries within its own genre. Sometimes I even like to compare reading certain books to music. This one played out to me like Ravel’s Bolero. Slow and steady in the beginning, with a tumult of epic action and emotion in its second half. And the tune stays with you even when you set it aside. I can see this book read and analysed by fantasy geeks who will read and reread it in search of any flaws or timeline glitches, just as they do with the fantasy classics.

I am always in awe of authors and artists who manage to create a whole new world, with creatures, plants, laws, cultures, languages… True, it does all come down to the same good vs, bad principle, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy the diversity. I love the way Tom Fallwell’s main character Baric explains it.

“Baric just kept smiling. “They’re just people. Some people are good, some people are bad and some people just don’t care. Some feel superior, some feel inferior, but we’re all the same when you get right down to it. People are people, whether they have fur and sharp teeth, dark skin and pointed ears, short bodies and long beards, it’s all the same. There’s no one better than me, there’s no one lesser than me. We’re all equal. We’re all just … people.”

This review is written for the Readers Review Room, and it is my pleasure to award it a gold worm, the highest rating in that group. It started off as a blue, but, to my great joy, it really enthralled me and delighted me. This is  book I will gladly recommend to all fantasy and adventure fans, and read the sequels myself. Read it for yourself to make the most of the experience, and remember this quote from the book:

“Knowledge is the goal.
Wisdom is the key.
Ignorance can be deadly.
You can never know too much.
You will always know too little.
Seeking knowledge is a lifelong pursuit.”


One response to “A WHISPER IN THE SHADOWS, book 1 by Tom Fallwell – my review no.56

  1. Michael Stern says:

    Great story. Looking forward to the second book.


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