My first reaction to this novel is that I have never hated two antagonists so much. This novel follows the life of two men during and after the French Revolution, with two foes that want nothing more than their heads in a basket. It is an entirely new spin on the revolutionary events and doesn’t read as many of the others novels of this time period. The focus is on the trials before the guillotine and the battles being fought for independence. It shows the passion and spirit of the people who are fighting for what they believe is right and for those that are fighting for a bloodlust that can’t be tamed. You will grow to love the men with honor and hate the men who long to destroy anyone in their way. Many men used the threat of the guillotine to destroy enemies under false pretenses of treason. This shares the story of those that had the courage to fight against them and the hope to prevail.
Our first character is Jean-Luc St. Clair who has moved his family to Paris, revoking his title and lands, to do his part in the revolution. He has strong ideals and believes the revolution is for the good of the people. He works as a clerk inventorying the goods of noblemen that have been brought to justice by the guillotine. Jean-Luc is noticed for his potential and led to meet with higher officials of government. He does not realize at the time that he is challenging one of the superiors, Lazare with his intellect and arguments. This chance meeting leads to turmoil after Jean-Luc agrees to defend General Kellerman against Lazare in court. No one has challenged Lazare so openly, and it is one of the most devastating parts of the book. I wanted to scream as if everyone in the courtroom could hear me. Lucky for them, they could not. This trial shows the truth of the revolution and the many injustices that were carried out without proof or reason. His second attempt to challenge Lazare is successful but at the cost of his security. He will battle Lazare until the end, with the only outcome being one of them meeting death.
Our second character is Andre de Valiere, another deserter of his title and lands, serving in the military during the Revolution. His father was led to the guillotine and his mother sent away leaving Andre and his brother to fight and keep a low profile. He falls for Sophie, General Murat’s niece, which seems to seal his fate. He does not understand Murat’s hate for him but learns in due course that it goes well beyond Sophie. He stands as witness for the defense for General Kellerman, and is eventually tried for his own “crimes” by the same men. His trial does not go the way the accusers planned. He is not led to the guillotine and this makes him a permanent enemy of Lazare and Murat. They believe the best way to defeat an enemy is to take away everything they love and care for and they very nearly succeed in Andre’s case.
This novel was not what I expected from Pataki. I was absorbed in The Traitor’s Wife, but Where the Light Falls was a bit of an acquired taste. It took me longer to read than I would have liked, but I was captivated halfway through once my hate for Lazare and Murat was settled. I had to know who would come out on top. Would the good guys prevail? The story seems well researched and although the men are fictional they are based on real characters during the Revolution. I sadly have not researched Napoleon Bonaparte well enough, but will be adding him to my list. I find the battles toward the end of the book in Egypt intriguing, and the fact that the French people, who so longed for an outcome of a republic government, settled so easily into an empire ruled by Bonaparte.
So was the bloodshed all worth it? This book will make you take a step back and think about the Revolution in a new way.