I recently finished reading Heroes of the Fallen by David West. I'm not big on historical fiction, but after talking to David about it at the Storymakers Conference in May, I was intrigued.
First off, I'll talk about the setting. It takes place in the last days of the Nephite Kingdom in America. To Latter Day Saints (Mormons), this is toward the end of The Book of Mormon. David, though, weaves a lot more interesting stuff in with it to create a whole new and fascinating world. For instance, he expanded upon the Nephite world by bringing in Phoenician traders. At first glance that seems incongruous and impossible. However, I remember reading articles showing evidence that Phoenician traders did come to America. In this book, these traders brought other cultures with them from the old world, even a manuscript of Homer's Iliad.
Another thing that only was briefly in the book yet piqued my interest was the mention of a large man with six fingers on each hand. There have been rumors of hidden archeological digs in America with 7 foot tall skeletons with six fingers and toes.
Anyway, David did a remarkable job of bringing these disparate elements together and creating a colorful and rich world. Is it realistic? Probably not, but fun anyway. What would really be cool is if some Viking warriors showed up, too, but that would be about 500 years off.
Then there's the main character, Amaron. He is loyal, hard-working, spiritual, and can beat the holy crap out of the bad guys: what's not to love about him? I keep wanting to call him "Conan the Mormonian".
Even though there are some spiritual events depicted in the book, it didn't come across as preachy or religious. It felt more like a fantasy to me. In spite of this book expounding upon events from the Book of Mormon, I think fantasy lovers of all faiths would enjoy it.
I had a little problem keeping up with all the characters and story lines, but then I also have a lousy memory. I had to quit reading for a couple weeks when I was about half-way through, so when I came back I had problems remembering who was doing what.
I enjoyed this book, but will say that it has some violence and some mild swearing. It would be safe for teens that don't mind a little bloodshed. Overall, I found it exciting and fun. I hadn't read any good sword-wielding books in a while, so this one filled that need in me. After all, I cut my reading teeth on Conan the Barbarian and John Carter of Mars.
My biggest complaint about this book: it ended too soon. I guess I need to pull out some old Robert E. Howard stories until the sequel comes out.