Review – Hans M. Hirschi’s The Fallen Angels of Karnataka
I looked at the title of this book, not knowing anything about it, and expected an “angels and demons” fantasy epic saga full of dragons and quests. In essence, that’s what I got, but not at all in the way that I thought.
Haakon is Norwegian and the central character to the story. The first chapter finds him in the Caribbean on his own private island in 2009 and the book is the story of how he got there. Flash back to the early 1980’s and a young Haakon, newly graduated from high school sets off from his rural home into Oslo to look for work. He found lodgings with Mrs Holberg, widow of an ambassador, and started to work in a supermarket until his national service papers came through. But this was not what he wanted to do. He had long dreamed of leaving Oslo and travelling and, listening to Mrs Holberg’s stories of when she travelled with her ambassador husband only compounded his interest. Haakon’s military service allowed him a bit of travel, to the coast and Bergen, and it was here just at the end of his service he met Svein, a young lieutenant in the navy, and had his first homosexual encounter. However, Svein was not interested in maintaining a relationship, which broke Haakon’s heart. Haakon returned to Oslo and Mrs Holberg’s and enrolled in university, where he was given the chance to travel to London and commence a series of meetings, first with a French student called Michel who becomes his first true love, then with an English aristocrat called Charles who takes Haakon round the world with an ulterior motive, that would change his life forever.
This book deals with a lot of hard-hitting subjects. Attitudes to homosexuality, HIV/AIDS and paedophilia/child trafficking come under a lot of scrutiny. But it does so in such a sensitive way that it makes it a true joy to read – this is so much not a negative book, it is a look at relationships between people, with the outside world and with themselves. Yes, some of the scenes are graphic and highly disturbing, especially later in the book, but the characterisation is so well written and rounded out that you really engage well with everyone. The young love between Michel and Haakon and the heartbreak surrounding it is really touching and getting into the mind of Charles, as he manipulates the still naive Haakon, is a dark and dangerous place. So yes, as I said at the start, this is a book about fallen angels, demons and dragons as part of an epic quest. The fallen angels are the innocent children, the demons are psychological and the quest is indeed epic as Haakon travels around the world in his lifetime trying to stop the dragon from hurting anyone else.
A wonderful story and one I will go back to.
**** 4 Stars!!!