“Before the Sun Fades” is the debut novel of up-and-coming fantasy novelist Vicky Bending. It tells the tale of Rakariel, a travelling mercenary and explorer, who encounters a magically sealed valley. Once inside, she meets its inhabitants, who, terrified by monsters, live a shadowy existence beneath the mists; which all but block the sun from entering the valley. Rakariel takes up a quest: to rid the valley of the curse engulfing it and the monsters within it, part to satisfy her own desire to escape the valley, and part to “free” its inhabitants from their existence…but it’s not quite so simple: she only has 9 days before her light runs out!
The novel deals with some quite complex real-life issues – including the concept of the “right thing to do”, in a very subtle way – no giant moral hammers here(!) – and does lead the reader to make their own conclusions about morality whilst reading. The main character, Rakariel, is very complex, and clearly well known and understood by the author, who tells us more and more about her character as the book progresses. I have to say that by the middle of the volume, I had developed quite an emotional attachment to her – something I rarely do in a novel – and did get quite worried about some of the perilous situations she found herself in during the latter stages of the story. Of the other characters, less can be said: they are all clearly in support of Rakariel (no major anti-heroes or other characters here), but they do each have distinct personalities and are clearly well crafted. One point of curiosity is that there are no named “baddies” in this story, a fact which works very well and sets this story apart from many others.
Aside from characterisation, the location for the story is also well constructed – it is very easy to put yourself in the shoes of one of the scared inhabitants of the hidden valley, blocked from the sun for so long that they only know it in myth. The author gives just enough details to develop an image in the reader’s head, but at the same time maintains a fast paced and action packed storyline.
This beautifully crafted story did leave me asking for more: I hope that the author might consider a follow-up, telling the stories of some of the more minor characters – and also answering the questions “what happens next?” We have got to know Rakariel so well, it’s hard to think that this will be her last adventure!
I think that this story will appeal to both devotees of the fantasy genre and newcomers alike – and I would strongly recommend it a good read for a long train journey for anyone!
(reviewed the day of purchase)