The Fall is the first book in Garth Nix's The Seventh Tower series, published in 2000 by Scholastic. It tells the story of Tal, a boy who lives in a world with eternal darkness. His home is a Castle with seven towers.
The cover design and art are by Madalina Stefan and Steve Rawlings respectively.
Tal, a young Chosen boy, is climbing the Red Tower with his shadowguard to steal a Sunstone. He reaches just below the Veil when he hears a cry far below. For a moment, Tal thinks he has been caught, only to realize the scream was from his little brother, who has secretly followed him. It was he that was caught by a Spiritshadow. Tal decides it would be too risky to climb back down to help his little brother, so he proceeds to climb the Veil. He arrives above the Veil only to meet a Spiritshadow without a master, calling itself the 'Keeper'. After briefly fighting with it, it eventually sends Tal falling off the Red Tower.
Tal has just found out that his father is missing, presumably dead. Unfortunately, his father is the only one possessing a Primary Sunstone. Without it, Tal's family will not be able to enter the spirit world of Aenir. This is troubling for the family in two ways; first, Tal, who has reached the proper age, would not be able to bind himself a Spiritshadow, and would thus be doomed as an Underfolk, a servant of the Castle; secondly, his mother is very ill, and Tal believes the cure may be found in Aenir. He knows that he must find a Sunstone, and tries to obtain one in three different ways. The first way is asking one from his cruel aunts. Upon asking, Tal meets Shadowmaster Sushin, who, like his aunts, wish to make his and his family's life more miserable than it is. This puzzles Tal, since Sushin is a stranger to him.
His aunts refuse to give one of their multiple Sunstones, so Tal has to depend on his next plan, which is by winning a Chosen competition among the Achievements of Luminosity. He enters the Achievement of Body category, but finds out at the last minute that somehow he had been "registered" for the wrong category. His name was written on the Achievement of Music roster. Without a piece to play, he runs down to find his great-uncle Ebbitt, who gives him a piece to perform. Upon entering the contest, he finds, much to his horror, that Sushin is one of the three judges. He performs the piece quite well, but is given the Yellow Ray of Failed Ambition, meaning he tried too hard. He does not win a Sunstone.
The third way is by asking one from the Empress of the castle. The guards of the Empress makes a deal with his, asking him to play a game called 'Beastmaker'. If Tal wins, he may enter. If Tal loses, he will give up his Sunstone. They play the game, and just as it appears that Tal will win, Sharrakor, who he knows as the Empress's Spiritshadow, viciously stops the game. The frightened guards force him to leave.
With no way to get a Sunstone, he goes to his great-uncle again. Ebbitt advises him to steal a Sunstone by climbing the Red Tower, the least guarded tower of the seven that protrude from the Castle.
In the second part of the story, Tal is fallen and is saved by his shadowguard. They land far away from the Castle and into the snowy landscape outside. He trudges through the snow for hours until Milla, an Icecarl, discovers him. She claims he is a thief, yet her Crone tells her otherwise. After Tal confuses them as Underfolk and orders them to take him to the Castle, he is knocked unconscious and his shadowguard is taken from him. Icecarls have natural shadows, and fear moving shadows.
When taken back to the Icecarl's ship (which is owned by the clan of the Far-Raiders), he is put to a test. He must fix the ship's flickering Sunstone to prove that he is in fact from the 'castle' he speaks of. He does so (although just temporarily, he informs the Icecarls, since the Sunstone is quite old) and is thus taken to the Mother Crone. She instructs Tal to journey back to his Castle and bring the Far-Raiders another Sunstone to replace their old, dying one. She also instructs Milla, much to Milla's reluctance, to aid Tal in this quest. Milla only agrees because she is informed that this is the only way she can become a Shield Maiden, which she deeply longs to be.
Together, Milla and Tal cross the "Living Sea". This sea is actually a herd of migrating Selski, large creatures that live on the ice. There are occasional gaps in this sea, and that is where they must cross. Once they've crossed, they meet a Merwin, a large and dangerous one-horned snake-like monster with four flippers. With Tal's help, Milla is able to kill it, resulting with her receiving a fatal wound across her side. Tal's shadowguard heals it to some extent, before a group of Shield Maidens sees them and takes them both to their Ruin Ship.