Heroes of the Fallen by David J. West is no uplifting Sunday afternoon read, but it does make the final Nephite/Lamanite confrontation unforgettable. Though billed as historical, it’s as much speculative as historical. It’s also brutal, gory, and depressing, but then it’s all about one of the most evil, corrupt periods of history the world has ever known.
The book begins with a prologue featuring the final battle to the death between the Nephites and Lamanites, then the first chapter jumps back in time a few years to the events leading up to the prologue events. Anyone who knows anything about the Book of Mormon knows from the outset that there are very few “good guys” and the few there are, don’t fare well in this final drama.
Reading this book is much like watching two ball games on a split screen. We see the Lamanites who have divided into two groups, one dominated by Ishmaelites, and both ruled by powerful, egotistical and cruel kings. Though they are enemies, they unite under the manipulation of the more powerful Gadianton Robbers. As a people, they are drunk on blood sacrifices, hallucinogenic drugs, wine, and their own greed. They worship stone gods and dabble in the occult. Life has little value. There are a few exceptions, and those few stand little chance of following their consciences instead of the demands thrust upon them.
On the other screen, we see the Nephites who have become arrogant, haughty, selfish, and careless. They too have fallen prey to the Gadiantons and King Men. Their chief judge, Mormon, and his young son, Moroni are a minority among their own people and are in as much danger from the other Nephites as from the Lamanites. There are few Nephites left who worship God, believe in Christ, and have feelings of charity toward others. Immorality is rampant. Lying, cheating, and an obsession with getting gain prevail.
United under the leadership of the wicked Gadianton Grand Master, the Lamanites set out to conquer and annihilate the Nephites. They seek out and murder anyone they find between them and their objective in order to arrive in Zarahemla unannounced. In Zarahemla confusion reigns as one judge attempts to destroy the chief judge and young Moroni.
The wickedness that prevails at this time may be more than many readers wish to grapple with. I don’t doubt the book’s realistic portrayal of evil people and evil acts are very close to the true events of that time, but I suspect there is a sound reason Moroni didn’t dwell on those events in the graphic manner West does. Readers accustomed to reading the more violent and graphic science fiction novels of our day will likely feel more comfortable with this depiction. The same is true of the magic and occult practices of the priests and Gadiantons which are highly reminiscent of some of the current fantasy novels of our day.
There are so many characters and points of view in this novel, they can become confusing. Unfortunately most characters are not well-developed and the reader only catches glimpses of their character. There is no central plot peopled by “main” characters but instead the reader follows a series of sketches featuring different characters that all lead toward the climactic battle.
Since this is only the first of a three part series, the story doesn’t reach a conclusive ending, but only takes the reader to the end of the preparation for war phase.
West has a rapid fire style that keeps the action moving at a fast pace and since this novel is expected to be the first in a series, there are many incidents that do not reach conclusions and characters introduced whose stories go nowhere in this volume. The events of this historical period as portrayed by West are clearly speculative, but plausible because of similar occurrences among other corrupt civilizations that have been destroyed at other times. There are few errors in the text of the type commonly found in self-published books.
This book will appeal primarily to men and to those women who enjoy violent, action-packed science fiction and fantasy. Those who read for pleasure or enlightenment may not be comfortable with this novel, neither will those who prefer scriptures straight without imaginative enhancements. But make no mistake, West is a talented writer and whether a reader ordinarily picks up fictionalized scripture novels or science fiction, once embarked on this novel readers will find it nearly impossible to put down.
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HEROES OF THE FALLEN by David J. West, published by Wido Publishing, hardcover, 306 pages, $19.95