I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Fallen Land by Taylor Brown
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 12th 2016
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Source: the Publisher
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Fallen Land is Taylor Brown's debut novel set in the final year of the Civil War, as a young couple on horseback flees a dangerous band of marauders who seek a bounty reward.
Callum, a seasoned horse thief at fifteen years old, came to America from his native Ireland as an orphan. Ava, her father and brother lost to the war, hides in her crumbling home until Callum determines to rescue her from the bands of hungry soldiers pillaging the land, leaving destruction in their wake. Ava and Callum have only each other in the world and their remarkable horse, Reiver, who carries them through the destruction that is the South.
Pursued relentlessly by a murderous slave hunter, tracking dogs, and ruthless ex-partisan rangers, the couple race through a beautiful but ruined land, surviving on food they glean from abandoned farms and the occasional kindness of strangers.
In the end, as they intersect with the scorching destruction of Sherman's March, the couple seek a safe haven where they can make a home and begin to rebuild their lives.
Dramatic and thrillingly written with an uncanny eye for glimpses of beauty in a ravaged landscape, Fallen Land is a love story at its core, and an unusually assured first novel by award-winning young author Taylor Brown.
‘Outside the door, the world was taking shape out of the high-country mist. Blued timbers sprung of the fugitive reality of dawn, ghostlike, perfect hidings for ambushing men.’
Fallen Land tells the harrowing tale about two young people that manage to fall in love in the midst of the Civil War. Callum is riding in the company of a band of Confederates being led by a dangerous man; the Colonel. He is a man both loved and feared; described as “a man of great cruelty who nevertheless protected them, led them, eclipsed any guilt of theirs with his own. At his behest they had razed and butchered, no reason but hunger and the Colonel’s orders.” When they reach a house and Callum is the first to find a woman inside, his immediate instinct is to protect her and he kills a man to do just that. While wounded in the process, he wakes to find that while he protected her from the first man, he wasn’t there to protect her from the second. This knowledge spurs him to leave his troop and set off to find her again and ensure she’s okay. Callum is subsequently accused of murder and a bounty is put on him, forcing him and now Ava to flee from certain death.
‘…the bounty of the boy’s head was only of greater import, for men such as them have little place int he world that stood scorched and remnant before them.’
The story is told primarily through Callum’s point of view, however, we are shown snippets through the eyes of the bounty hunters and their devotion to Callum’s death is ruthless. Fierce and relentless, these men have no qualms about tracking him down for the purposes of obtaining the money promised to them; even if it involves killing or maiming innocents that stand in their way of discovery. The duo are forced to endure tremendous hardship and any hope that they have of making out of this alive is seemingly improbable.
While I found the writing to be positively sumptuous, the story itself did follow a meandering pace and took me quite some time to finish. The violence is extreme, but fitting. The romance is lacking with no spark between the two to be seen, which you wouldn’t expect since Callum made some pretty life-changing decisions in order to protect this woman of mystery. I can understand his intentions to protect a woman, I just never quite understood exactly why he went to such extreme lengths to do so. Setting all that aside, this is still a notable debut that leaves me anticipating future works to come from this author. I will also be checking out his short story collection, In the Season of Blood and Gold, which is more Southern Gothic/Country Noir.