A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is an action-packed story with plenty of peril and scary situations. Tal is almost always in danger, and his world is full of enemies, threatening creatures, and complicated relationships. That said, it's not really any more intense than anything kids will find in the early Harry Potter books. Tal doesn't always do or say the right thing, but his intentions are good, and he learns from his mistakes.
What's the story?
Thirteen-year-old Tal has lived his entire life in the enormous, labyrinthine Castle of the Chosen, which is in a state of perpetual darkness due to the Veil that hangs above its seven towers. Inside the Castle, society is sharply delineated by class; the Chosen, like Tal, have magical Sunstones and living shadows, while their servants, the Underfolk, have only \"natural\" shadows and aren't allowed to have Sunstones. When Tal's father disappears, he tries to steal a larger Sunstone to help his family -- only to wind up stranded outside the Castle when things go awry. Desperate to return home, he first must survive in a wider world he never knew existed.
Is it any good?
As evidenced in his other series Garth Nix is an inventive writer who knows how to spin an engrossing, imaginative story, and THE FALL is no exception. Some elements of the tale are familiar -- a boy on the brink of manhood who must undergo many trials to triumph against his enemies; a reluctant helper who turns out to be a powerful ally; etc. -- but the details are refreshingly original. The world of the Chosen is meticulous and rich; their companion Spiritshadows and shadowguards are particularly appealing (if you've read any of His Dark Materials, you may find Tal's shadowguard reminding you of a daemon).
Tal is also an accessible, relatable character. He makes mistakes and deals with the consequences, and he's not always a happy camper. Though he begins the book very sure of his status and place in the world, as his eyes are opened to new possibilities, he realizes that he has a lot left to learn. Kids who enjoy this first volume of his adventures should jump right into the rest of the books in this series; the story gets even better as Tal finds out more about the truth behind the Castle, the Dark World, and the Veil.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the Chosen treat the Underfolk. Is it fair? Does Tal's argument that that's the way things have always been justify the Castle's class system? Kids: Who do you like more, Tal or Milla? Why? What do you think you'd do in their place? What do you think will happen in future books of the series?