Joshua Hershey’s Linden Falls is a high fantasy novel pitting humans against unearthly creatures.
Raised by her grandmother Gigi, 17-year-old Mabel — prone to visions and considered odd by schoolmates — believes she was orphaned as an infant. After Gigi’s death, she finds an odd green book at her grandmother’s house she’d seen previously in a dream. Its pages contain unfamiliar golden characters, yet she’s able to read the language aloud.
Then, “Dazzling beams of light suddenly flashed from the words,” forming a vortex that triggers a violent storm outside. Escaping through a blazing doorway, she enters another world in which “red stars…flickered like candles in the midnight sky.” There, she’s pursued by Lavian, a fallen Dark Angel with a snake head and human body, “gray skin…covered with names, symbols and signs.” She’s saved by Light Angels and learns that there are two worlds: the Seen (the Earth she knows), and the Unseen (the realm of angels and Jezul, God’s son).
Several lands, including Linden, are under the sway of darkness, but she can break its power by reading from the Book of Light. Armed with cryptic guidance regarding her quest, she returns to Earth to find and free allies to help her fight the gods, demons, and fallen angels intent on destroying her and the book.
Hershey’s fast-paced tale is head-spinning. He often throws readers into the middle of the action with little explanation. Confusing matters further, he offers detailed descriptions of unimportant elements and includes many superfluous characters. For example, out of three characters introduced in the opening paragraphs, one is never mentioned after page 11, the other never appears after page 24.
Additionally, confounding situations, complex obstacles, constantly-shifting goals and unexplained backstories swamp the “chosen one” story arc. Excessive gore and body horror become numbing.
The story is creatively told with strong writing line by line, but with so much happening, it’s hard to follow. Some careful pruning would greatly improve this novel.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.