Review: Fall Hard

Fall Hard - J.L. Merrow

Oh wow. This book stars an Icelandic Viking whose back is almost covered in a tattoo of Yggdrasil: the legendary Tree of Life. Now guess where its taproot disappears into...?


Uhu! That must’ve been an interesting session at the tattoo shop!


He he he...


Ehm, so now that I’m already discussing the plant kingdom, I might as well admit that I read Fall Hard in a semi -vegetative state.  I don’t mean to be rude, really I’m not. But there wasn’t all that much to kick my brain activity into full gear, you know? And I’m so bummed by this! Until now, I happily recommended Merrow’s work to my friends.  Not only is she a great writer, Muscling Through in particular completely won me over. It was original, subtly layered and very amusing. Since time travel novella A Trick of Time was mildly entertaining as well, I just figured I couldn’t go wrong with this author. So I was genuinely looking forward to this book, that’s set in the beautiful Iceland.


And It looked so good on paper! But...something went amiss when it came to the execution. Starting with Paul, the MC. He survived falling off an Icelandic waterfall. His bf was killed in the same accident – if that’s what it was...? After months of rehabilitation in a UK hospital, he still suffers from amnesia. He can remember his life perfectly, just not his year in Iceland (peculiar, no?). So Paul flies back in search of his lost memories. Before long, two men are vying for his attention. Did Paul know them before his accident? And if so, what role did they play in his life and why does he have the nagging suspicion that both men are hiding something? So far, so good! I haven’t come across the amnesia-trope too often so I’m not bothered by it. I know it can make for a  thrilling and suspenseful read when the MC’s memory loss is threatening his life and he gets caught up in a race against the clock.


Not this time.


I got the impression that I was reading Paul’s diary in which he described the daily grind rather than a well-plotted book. The pacing was so very slow. Although the writing was good enough to keep my boredom at bay, it wasn’t enough to hook me. Apart from his amnesia, Paul was a bland and unpleasant character. I love how well the first person narrative works when a MC has a distinctive voice that ‘pops’ off the pages. It gives you the opportunity to really crawl into his skin. With Paul, I couldn’t even grasp what others saw in him, other than his pretty cover. Actually, only his love interest Viggo managed to pique my interest (obviously the guy with the taproot disappearing into his.. yeah. :p).  But heck, teamed up with a Paul I knew I better not count on butterflies in my tummy and fire between the sheets.


If you happen to be interested in Iceland, mythology and M/M, I can well imagine you hit the jackpot with Fall Hard. There went a lot of research into the story. For a while, I even wondered if the educational chunks about brutal warrior Egil Skallagrimsson would result in another time travel story, in which Paul traveled back to the warrior’s harsh world. I’d say that could’ve pimped the plot quite effectively! Not that Merrow didn’t do her best to sprinkle around hints of looming danger and possibly black magic. Paul was suspicious the entire time as well. But overall, these teasing attempts at foreboding were smothered by mundanity. And I’m all for teasing... but I want that cake to be waiting for me in the end, and eat it too!


Which really leaves only one option...


He might not be mothers’ prettiest, but next time I’d rather read a dark and engrossing story about Egil Skallagrimsson, please?