Reviewed by Elizabetta
TITLE: Fall Hard
AUTHOR: J. L. Merrow
PUBLISHER: Samhain Publishing
LENGTH: 237 pages
BLURB: Some memories are better off lost in the mist…
Eight months ago, British academic Paul Ansell lost his lover—and all the memories of their time together—in an accident at Iceland’s Gullfoss Falls. Returning to the misty island country to resume his study of the bloodthirsty Viking Egil Skallagrimsson is tough as he struggles to pull his life back together.
First, there’s his colleague, Mags, who treats him like glass, and summer student Alex, who peppers him with discomforting questions. Then there’s Icelandic jet-boat driver Viggo, a tattooed, modern-day Viking who won’t say much about how they know each other. Leaving Paul to wonder if their volcanic attraction is fuelled by a desire to make a fresh start, or desperation to forget the past.
As more fragments of his lost memories fall into place, Paul is unsure if he can trust himself, much less anyone around him. And he begins to suspect his accident was nothing of the kind.
Paul Ansell, an English ex-pat, is a professor and researcher of Icelandic studies at a private institute in Reykjavik. That is, up until he was seriously injured in a long tumble off the side of a cliff. Paul also suffers from amnesia about the accident. In fact, he can’t remember anything about the year he’s spent in Iceland. He has no memory of colleagues and friends made there. He can’t even remember his lover, Sven Halvorson, another historian, who was tragically killed in the same accident. Now, almost a year later, Paul is ready to pick up the pieces of his life, resume his studies, try to jog his memory, and put to rest lingering unease about the accident.
There is an undercurrent of foreboding in the story, of looming threat. Or maybe everything is colored by Paul’s vulnerability and uncertainty, effects of the amnesia. He has a good friend in Mags Kettle, a colleague who helps him get re-settled, but she has a strange reluctance to answer questions about Sven and their relationship. Paul finds himself fending off the advances of Alex, a new, visiting historian who, strangely, has his own questions about the accident. And, Paul is thrown by his immediate, charged physical attraction to the gorgeously tattooed boat-runner, Viggo Gudrunarson, who will not confirm what they were to each other before the accident. Were they lovers? Was Paul cheating on Sven? What kind of a person was Paul? … he may not be happy with the answers. Is the threat he feels inward or outward?
I find it difficult to connect with Paul’s character, can’t get under his skin. His amnesia keeps him at a distance; he can be surly, suspicious and a bit paranoid and sometimes he comes off as just mean. I don’t understand this specialized memory loss— how he can remember everything else in his life, his studies, his family in England, and yet nothing about his year in Iceland? If this is meant to be a psychological study of an amnesiac it doesn’t quite work for me. On the other hand, Paul’s growing relationship with Viggo is hot and I’m more interested in this modern-day Viking, and his background, would like to know more about him. There is a spark and mystery to Viggo that is more alluring.
While the writing is good, crisp, easy to read, my issue is with the plotting. Outside Paul’s amnesia, there’s not enough tension, and the looming threat set up at the story’s beginning, fizzles. I would recommend this for it’s interesting rendering of Reykjavik, for the physical setting, and the references to its lore, especially the great detail work on the Viking berserker and poet, Egil Skallagrimsson, which add a unique flavor. And for the mysterious, patient, Viggo.
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Elizabetta is one of the official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love.
To read all her reviews, click the link: ELIZABETTA’S REVIEWS