Earlier this year I read The Outside, a sleeper of a novel that I just simply adore. It explored neurodivergence with care, and thematically centered it against a backdrop of conformity. I eagerly awaited the sequel and I was not disappointed. The Fallen, by Ada Hoffmann, is a solid, if shorter, sequel that continues the path of its predecessor with great character development and excellent examination of its themes.
Following the events of The Outside, the characters are in a bit of a slump. Without too many spoilers, Yasira was able to redirect the energies of the Outside on the planet Jai and create a haven for those affected by its heresies. While not entirely chaotic, it does not meet the Gods’ standards for organized living, and the planet has been sanctioned off. Yasira, along with her partner Tiv, have organized a small resistance group offering aid to the many communities cut off by the Gods and their angels. However, the task of redirecting the heretical energy has taken a toll on Yasira and Tiv is trying to keep the group together as resources and hope dwindle. Meanwhile, Akavi is lurking in the background, doing whatever they can to disrupt everyone’s plans in service of their own. What does revolution and resistance look like when you’re beset on all sides with no chance of military parity? And can it withstand questions from within?
Hoffmann roped me in with The Outside and The Fallen is no different. Hoffmann takes her time with this story, exploring the physical and psychological effects of standing against hegemonic powers. It’s a shorter book, so the slow-down feels evenly paced, giving the characters room to breathe, without feeling overwhelmed by their feelings and different ways of processing the events. Hoffmann’s focus on varying neurodivergence amongst the characters was refreshing, giving different perspectives on how to live in a changing world. There were explorations of anger, sadness, triumph and despair, and Hoffmann weaves them together nicely, having them conflict with each other within the small group of people just trying to do right. There is also a tight focused plot that guides the reader through the character exploration that feels just right.
Yasira takes a slight backseat, giving Tiv an excellent opportunity to shine here. Tiv was a small role in the first book, and she’s heavily featured as a leader in The Fallen. She’s resourceful, diligent and strong headed. She is separate from the group in that she didn’t gain some of the spectacular powers the others did, and it makes her feel she has to work harder to be worthwhile. She runs communications between different villages on the planet and makes the decisions for the group, pulling more than her own weight. She has a complex relationship with her God, since before everything she truly devoted her life to their work. Hoffmann handles the inner turmoil well, giving Tiv space to explore her own biases and reorient herself as she wants, instead of in service to Yasira.
Beyond the great character work, I love Hoffmann’s depiction of a community under siege and spread out from each other. The main characters’ attempts to keep these wildly different villages supplied and informed, while the members of those towns try to determine their own way forward is engaging. There are conflicts of interest and timing issues. Some are militant while others prefer a more peaceful form of resistance. It felt very informed by the events consistently in the news from the last year and while sad, it also felt empowering. I’m a sucker for stories like this, and I am excited to see more.
The Fallen is a great follow up to a sleeper novel. There is more variety within the characters, and solid exploration of resistance through coalition. The world is built out just a little more, but you won’t get too much beyond what already exists. The length is just right for the story told, opening up for a larger conflict later. I’m impressed by Hoffmann’s writing and will be diligently awaiting more.
Rating: The Fallen 8.5/10
An ARC of this book was provided to us in exchange for an unbiased review. The thoughts on this story are my own.