It’s review time for the final part of the Rampart Trilogy by M. R. Carey, The Fall of Koli. Can our young hero and his companions finally get the answers that they crave? This fair and unbiased review was conducted with gratitude for the free electronic copy of the book which I received from the publisher, Orbit.
This review contains an affiliate link to Bookshop.org, which will earn me a commission if used, and will help to support independent bookshops.
Having fought their way through the ferocious flora and fauna of Ingland, not to mention its often less-than-hospitable populace, Koli and his companions have come at last to the Sword of Albion. An enormous ship from the days of the unfinished war, it seems like a potential safe haven. But it might just be that the biggest threat Koli has faced so far resides there. Meanwhile, the people of Mythen Rood prepare for war with the forces of HalfAx, as Spinner attempts to rally her people around her and shore up their defences. The shadow cast over this green and once pleasant land darkens, as the tech of long forgotten wars awakens to spit death and sow destruction once again.
Returning to Koli’s world one final time feels rather bittersweet. With The Book of Koli’s publication coming just after the first UK-wide lockdown, followed a few months later by its sequel, Koli has been wonderful company through some very unsettling times. With his no-nonsense morality and his earnest desire to help those around him – not to mention his unique narration, present and correct here once again – it’s sad to have to say goodbye to him. On the plus side though, The Fall of Koli is a phenomenal farewell.
Beginning with a quick recap of the story so far, as well as a little foreshadowing, it’s not long before we pick up exactly where we left off in Trials. Koli and his friends have followed the mysterious signal out to sea, and have discovered the Sword of Albion. Soon after, they meet those in charge, and are introduced to their absolutely detestable son, Stanley. Stanley is rude, ill-tempered and impatient, and his distaste for their guests is obvious from their first meeting. His remorseless bullying of the sweet and non-confrontational Koli is guaranteed to make him hated by readers, who by this point will no doubt be feeling extremely protective towards the young hero. Stanley is the kind of villain that you just love to hate, at least at first glance.
All is not as it seems, however, and it’s clear that there’s more at stake than Koli realises (although there usually is, dead god bless him). Events hinted at or referred to vaguely in the previous two books are given more clarity and context, with some extremely satisfying resolutions and revelations emerging. There is a real sense of threads being gathered together, a reassuring feeling of being in the hands of a writer who had a plan for that (and that, and that) all along. Even if we don’t necessarily have all the answers by the end, the ones that we do get are more than enough. Some might be to questions you didn’t even know you had, but you’ll find you’re glad to get them.
Of course, this isn’t just Koli’s story. As with The Trials of Koli, the story is split between his viewpoint and Spinner’s, as the Peacemaker of HalfAx turns his attention to Mythen Rood. Having laid claim to all the tech in the land, he intends to take what little they have, preferably by force. Preparations for the coming conflict mean there is a gradual build up in tension, with Spinner’s pragmatism contrasting with Koli’s more emotion led decision making. He might want to leave a better world for those that will follow, but Spinner is more concerned about just making it to tomorrow.
That’s not to say Spinner comes across as callous or cold, not at all. It’s more that her vision for the world is a little more clear-eyed than Koli’s optimistically rose tinted one. Spinner also provides some wonderful moments of levity, often with the kind of gallows humour that Koli quite simply doesn’t have the wit for. It provides even more contrast between the two narrators, as well as showing Spinner’s developing relationship with husband Jon, her target for many of these jokes. With the stakes higher than ever for both Mythen Rood and Spinner, her sections continue to be just as enthralling as they were previously. Her keen political mind and diplomacy are on show again, as well as her ability to strategize, and it’s immensely satisfying to see her in her element. The alternating viewpoints vary the pace wonderfully well too, meaning you’re rarely far away from something dramatic or exciting happening to either her or Koli.
The Fall of Koli is as good a conclusion as you could possibly want to a series, an epic and emotional end to the journey of one of the most memorable heroes in recent years. Even after two previous books in the series, Carey still finds ways to not only surprise us, but to get us even more invested in the fate of this vividly realised world too. Consider this landing well and truly stuck.
The Fall of Koli is published by Orbit, and releases on the 25th March in the UK. You can order a copy through this affiliate link.