The Fool and the Hierophant, by Alexander Krall
Hey guys, welcome back. Are you having a good week?
Today, I’m excited to be reviewing The Fool and the Hierophant, a mystery thriller by Alexander Krall, with some interesting Science Fiction elements.
If you’ve got your favourite drink to hand, let us dive in.
After a fire breaks out on Mother One, one of the four artificial birthing machines in the city of Radiance, Captain Khepra Sigfrid calls upon a disgraced detective to see if he can uncover the culprit’s identity. Although the story is a journey of investigation, it is also a personal journey of transformation and healing as the disgraced former detective is forced to address the grief he still feels over the loss of his beloved wife.
The Fool and the Hierophant is, at its core, a journey of inner pain and redemption as one man investigates a series of unforgiveable crimes, hoping to bring peace back to the city of Radiance.
Of the characters involved in the story, three seemed the most important to me in terms of the roles they played; Captain Khepra Sigfrid, the disgraced former detective (not known by any name), and Dr Rota.
Captain Khepra Sigfrid is one of the first main characters we encounter. She had a commanding presence and was strict and direct in her interactions with others. At first, she seemed a bit harsh in my eyes, however, I came to sympathise with her more as I realized the weight of responsibility she bore on her shoulders as the crimes remained unsolved. Everyone in the city would be looking to her for guidance and solutions, a burden I can’t imagine bearing alone. The Captain’s genuine concern for her citizens and her desire to protect them made her a likable, although at times hard to understand character.
The Detective, the lead protagonist in the book, is never mentioned by name, which I found unusual, however, it also added another layer of mystery to his character. Dubbed ‘one of the most infamous men in Radiance’ for committing the ultimate sin of murder years ago, The Detective was a stoic and reserved man for the most part. Having lost his wife, he seemed to have withdrawn into himself, never allowing his true feelings (save for anger) to surface. He began the story as a quick-tempered individual, angry at the world and seeking some sort of vengeance, however, as the story progressed, I watched him gradually transform into a better man; a man who had begun to reconcile with his past. Following along on his personal journey was thrilling and meaningful, allowing me to peer deeply into his subconscious and root for his continued transformation.
Dr Rota might be considered a side character in the story, although he is by no means less important. He was a deeply caring and patient man that showed concern for the former detective and his plight. Although the pair did not get on well at the start, their gradual connection was heart-warming in a way that is hard to explain; I feel it is something that must be experienced through reading the scenes between them. The more involved the detective became with the investigation, the more he reflected on his past and the more Dr Rota was able to help him open up to the possibilities of who he could be. As such, Dr Rota played a pivotal role, as a mentor in assisting the detective’s inner transformation.
The Fool and the Hierophant was a well-written story with much to enjoy.
- The world-building and lore of the city of Radiance was fascinating. The idea of The Light Ones as Gods, said to have given humanity a second chance at life, was something I found particularly interesting. The author gradually revealed more backstory on the life and creation of Radiance as the story progressed, including the invention of the Mothers, in order to create artificial humans to populate the city. Binaries were another curious part of the story; a genetic irregularity whereby one of a person’s pupils turns to a slit like a number one, and intense visions of the near future are had in the form of seizures.
- I liked that each new chapter had one short page at the start, which furthered the lore of the world, bit by bit. This was helpful as it provided additional context to the story.
- The Detective’s journey of inner transformation was well written and developed at a steady pace. I liked seeing the stark contrast between his more reserved and hardened persona at the story’s beginning, and his more open, accepting self toward the end.
- The juxtaposition of physical and mental freedom was explored well. Not only was The Detective initially imprisoned in The Tower, but he was also imprisoned in his mind, unable to free himself from his grief and sense of failure over his wife’s death a decade prior.
- The theme of losing a loved one and the grief that results was paralleled between The Detective and the lead antagonist, posing the two as mirror images of each other, with one trying desperately to save the future of Radiance and the other hell bent on destroying it.
- An unexpected twist toward the end of the story surprised and excited me, and took the story (and The Detective’s perceptions of events) down a different path.
- The ending was cleverly executed, with excellent suspense-building. It had me questioning the motives of the culprit; was he doing the right thing, at least to his mind, or the wrong thing in everyone-else’s eyes? Although I never found out, the ending proved to be a perfect finish to the story. I found myself wishing for a second instalment, to see if further answers would be revealed.
Although there was much to like about this book, there were one or two things that I feel let the story down at times.
- The writing style felt a bit clunky at points, particularly after the half-way mark. It might flow better if a line edit was carried out for improved readability.
- The third person, impersonal narration style recounted events from an initially detached perspective, which seemed to shift into a closer third person narration style as the story progressed. However, there were scenes where the reader would be privy to one character’s thoughts, but it wasn’t clear whose experience was being conveyed. For example, there is a scene in The Tower between Dr Rota and The Detective. At first, I thought I was experiencing The Detective’s perspective but with Dr Rota’s thoughts and emotions peppering the scene, it was hard to tell.
- At points, I became confused about what was happening. For instance, there is a scene where The Detective is in a bar and he starts drifting into a memory or having a flashback, however, there is nothing to signify that the flashback is occurring beforehand, so it appears that things are happening in real time. I feel that adding a sentence just to clarify that he’s recalling his past would help to make these scenes clearer.
Throughout my reading experience of The Fool and the Hierophant, I picked out four quotes which felt particularly meaningful.
1) ‘Talking about it makes it real again: you think it doesn’t exist if you can hide from it. So you keep avoiding it and avoiding it and you keep feeling nothing. Because you’ve told yourself that feeling nothing is better than feeling how you felt before.’
I found this to be a relatable quote. It is a common defence mechanism when we are faced with unbearable pain to act as if an event never occurred, as if memories are not real. However, the more we run from them, the more they weigh on us over time. In short, it is better to face the pain and come to terms with it while we can, than to pretend we feel nothing while the memories linger.
2) ‘Nothing can shield us from the happenstances of day-to-day life.’
Every day, things happen, some good and some bad. We may try to protect ourselves, to form bubbles of safety from the outside world, but these can never offer true protection from the inevitable ups and downs life brings with it.
3) ‘You don’t plant a tree for yourself. You plant it for future generations.’
This quote stood out to me because it possessed a deep sense of selflessness, of giving something for others without expecting to reap the benefits for oneself. It occurred to me that much of what we do to our world may not affect us at present but it will certainly affect those that come after us.
4) ‘You have to have the ups and downs in life- Otherwise, you start to just go through the motions. Your body keeps moving, but your soul flatlines.’
The author makes an interesting point here. Without positive or negative events, everything would be neutral. Our mind would not register the neutral and mundane as there would be nothing to feel, nothing to be happy or sad over. It is the ups and downs in our lives, and more importantly, how we deal with them that makes our experience of life truly meaningful.
Overall, The Fool and the Hierophant was a suspenseful and thrilling mystery investigation, with numerous twists that kept me engaged throughout. It had a surprising yet oddly satisfying ending, concluding the harrowing journey of one man toward redemption.
My Rating: 5 stars.
Recommended to: lovers of science fiction and mystery-thriller novels, with themes of love, loss, and redemption.
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