Koli has come a long way since being exiled from his small village of Mythen Rood. In his search for the fabled tech of the old times, he knew he’d be battling strange, terrible beasts and trees that move as fast as whips. But he has already encountered so much more than he bargained for.
Now that Koli and his companions have found the source of the signal they’ve been following – the mysterious “Sword of Albion” – there is hope that their perilous journey will finally be worth something.
Until they unearth terrifying truths about an ancient war . . . and realize that it may have never ended.
The Fall of Koli is the third and final book in The Rampart Trilogy by M.R. Carey, and I am going to admit something right up front: I was crying from page one. If you have been following my reviews (if not, they can be found here: The Book of Koli; The Trials of Koli) you know this has really been an emotional journey for me. From being introduced to Koli and friends I have grown to care more and more about them with every line, with The Fall of Koli being the pinnacle of that relationship. This is my first Carey series, but it is easy to see that connection to the books comes from the author’s phenomenal writing.
I am most impressed with Carey’s ability to write for tone. The Rampart Trilogy is very much a character driven-series, but I do not think those characters (who are all phenomenal, by the way, see my rant below) are as successful without the tonal quality the author writes into the story. This is not more evident than the first lines of The Fall of Koli:
I went on a journey once… It was a while back now. A lot has happened since.
Those words evoke so much emotion from the start for a few reasons. First, it throws back to the previous two books, which were emotional journeys in and of themselves. In The Book of Koli the reader is introduced to Koli, Spinner, Monono, et al, and their approachable personalities make it so easy to form a connection. In The Trials of Koli we follow Koli as he continues his venture outside the walls of Mythen Rood. His awe with the rest of the world is riveting, as is Monono’s growth and Spinner’s emergence as an important character, as well. Of course, everyone knows The Fall of Koli is the last book in the series, and in my opinion the one with the most character development.
That brings me to the second reason the opening lines are so emotive: they highlight the fact that this is the end. It feels like the opening scene of a movie where the narrator is speaking, and it has almost a sad ring to it. And I did not want it to end, so those words brought out my feelings right away. I would like to say that I was over reacting and those feelings settled after that, but no. They did not. Carey did an amazing job of setting the tone from the first lines and keeping that tone to the last. I have the tears on my pillow to prove it.
This series is also very thematic, and as a reader you have your pick. Human vs. nature. Human vs. technology. Human vs. human. War. Climate change. Power. The author manages to get them all in. But for me, The Rampart Trilogy has been all about agency and self-discovery. I have said many times that this series is character-driven, but in function it is so much more than that; a fact that I do think I realized in full until this last book. For some of the characters this evolution is more conspicuous; Cup and Monono are examples of this as they seek out physical and systematic changes to themselves to line up with how they feel internally. For other characters, the progression is more subtle. Koli and Spinner fall into this category, as they mature more gradually. And with that growth comes agency – control over one’s own mind, body, and experience. In the beginning, the aforementioned characters have almost none. Their lives are being dictated by others for the most part, and they are in positions where they do not have much choice. It was wonderful to experience the characters evolve and find their place in society as they also learn that they are capable of creating the changes they wish to see in the world. One character I have really not addressed is Ursula; honestly, that is because I do not think she changed that much from the beginning. Ursula is a great character as is, and there would be no story without her. And I absolutely loved where everyone ended up. The ending was somewhat surprising for some, not so surprising for others, but all around very well-thought out. I would not change a thing.
Coming to the end of this review has felt to me like approaching the last pages of the book. I know it is time, but maybe if I just keep writing will the story just never end? I know that is now how this works, but a reader can dream, can’t he?
Anyway, here we go: The Rampart Trilogy has found place nestled amongst my favorite science fiction series of all time, and The Fall of Koli is the perfect, bittersweet finale to what has been an incredible, unparalleled journey. Full stop. It gets my highest recommendation.