And so we come to The Fall of Koli – the ominously-named final volume of MR Carey’s post-apocalyptic Ramparts series. For those who have not read the first two volumes of this series (The Book of Koli and The Trials of Koli) and want to, there will be spoilers in this review. The good news is that after the slow grind of the second book, Carey delivers in a finale which pays off all of the breadcrumbs that he has been dropping along the way.
As with the second book, The Fall of Koli opens directly after the cliffhanger ending the previous volume. Koli, Ursula and Cup have managed to pilot a boat to the source of the Sword of Albion signal. They are rescued from their sinking craft by the inhabitants of what turns out to be a massive ocean-going vessel called the Sword of Albion. And there are only three inhabitants on board – Lorraine, Paul and their son Stanley Banner, all of whom speak as if the cataclysm that destroyed their world hundreds of years ago had only just happened and are clearly hiding something. Koli receives a mysterious warning about the three and starts to join the dots around a mythical figure called Stannabanna and the mercurial sixteen year-old Stanley who keeps getting dragged off for treatments. At the same time back in his old village of Mythen Rood, Spinner is preparing the face the might of neighbouring Half-Axe, who might have been defeated once but who have many more soldiers to draw from and are out for blood.
While the two narrative strands were completely disconnected in book 2, Carey slowly starts to bring them together here. While on the Sword of Albion, Koli and his crew discover deep secrets about their world and how it came to be, in Mythen Rood Spinner is subtly trying to deconstruct the ancient power structure bound to the ability to use ancient technology that saw Koli banished in the first place. Meanwhile the Japanese AI Monono Aware who befriended Koli way back in The Book of Koli, and is probably the best character in the series, starts to come into her own in a way that also helps explain much of the preceding action.
The Fall of Koli reveals the bigger plan that Carey had when he started this series. It is well constructed with full of great cliffhangers through to the final act which becomes a strange combination of hope and dread as the two disparate story lines come together. While it has never been promoted in this way, nothing in this volume lifts the series outside of its Young Adult styling and concerns – even on the Sword of Albion the main action is between the two teenagers Koli and Stanley. But for those readers in particular this final volume will make what has sometimes felt like a long journey worth the effort.