I finished Jennifer Fallon’s Harshini last night. This is book 3 of The Demon Child Trilogy. I liked the first book, Medalon, and loved the second, Treason Keep. So it breaks my heart to say that Harshini didn’t satisfy me.
My problem was that a few of the characters, and in particular the main character, changed dramatically between the end of Treason Keep and the start of Harshini. Now I know the whole point of novels is to watch people change and grow. But this just felt ‘off’ to me. This is an awkward metaphor, but it was as if R’Shiel had been a medical student in Medalon, an intern in Treason Keep, then a lawyer in Harshini. I kept thinking “Wait? What? R’Shiel wouldn’t be acting like this!”
Again, don’t take the metaphor too literally. I’m not actually talking career choices here. But she was brash and wreckless in the first two books, yet she was also sympathetic. Your heart went out to this young girl that was facing so many hardships and so many uncomfortable truths. You could forgive her her faults, what with everything she was going through.
In Harshini, she is still brash and wreckless, but now she is also thoughtless. She keeps doing things that hurt people and doesn’t really seem to care. Or if she cares, she doesn’t learn from the experience. When her actions — actions that she has been advised against again and again — cause the death of someone she seems to like and respect, she laments it for about one paragraph. In the first two books she’s often referred to as a spoiled brat, but it isn’t until Harshini that she begins acting like one.
Stan Lee once said (through the mouth of Uncle Ben in Spiderman) “With great power comes great responsiblitly.” Listen up, authors. You need to listen to Stan! The man knows that of which he speaks! In this book R’Shiel is wielding great power, but she’s wielding it with no thoughts of responsibility or consquences. It would be a trivial thing to change Harshini into a book where R’Shiel was the great evil to be conquered, really. Specially since the ‘evil god’ in these books is uncomfortably close to the Christian God in what he considers sinful. (Fallon’s ‘out’ here is that Xaphista considers love a sin. Don’t ask me how he expects his followers to procreate.)
When the hero of a book is someone you find yourself strongly disliking, it’s hard to enjoy the book. So that was my main issue. My other main gripe is with the gods. They’re active characters in this series but in the first two books Fallon managed to restrain them in various ways. But in Harshini, they become a deus ex machina solution to too many problems. At the same time, R’Shiel is, well, a nasty bitch to them constantly and they just sigh and let her walk all over them. Very strange.
So now I’m stuck. I don’t know if I can still recommend the other two books, knowing the end is going to be such a let down. I suppose I still can. Harshini isn’t a horrible book, by any means. Other readers may even like the newly empowered R’Shiel. But to me… although I’m glad I read the book, it was just a disappointment after how wonderful I’d found Treason Keep to be.