on 30 July 2013
There has been a proliferation of supposed dark fantasy recently that when you scratch the surface offer nothing more than another glorified YA novel. If you like that kind of thing, then fine but don't advertise it as something grittier or more adult in nature.
I'm pleased to say that Herald of the Storm is exactly as advertised. Hard hitting, dark in tone and content with no emotion spared. The many character POV's are varied and offer realistic progression within their story archs, that even while this is very obviously the first in a series, were self contained within the novel.
The action is plentiful and at times shocking with many scenes believable due to the levels of depravity or desperation that people find themselves in.
Overall, a very enjoyable first trip to Steelhaven and will be looking out for the follow up in the future.
This atmospheric fantasy drama took me back to reading the Final Fantasy 'City Of Thieves' book as a kid - only 'Herald' is much darker & geared towards adults & Young Adults.
The King who resides at the grim port city of Steelhaven has ridden off with his army to protect his lands from invasion. The titular herald is one of his enemies, sent to cause chaos & undermine the capital city from within. But most of the residents are too busy trying to survive on the mean streets to notice...
This is a very enjoyable book, which follows numerous characters around like the Game Of Thrones series. Some of these characters feel rather familiar e.g. the reluctant princess, bitter veteran & street children but somehow I cared about them more than usual. Perhaps because this book is darker than many of its type, their stories seemed that little bit more convincing.
Please note that while it didn't bother me, the language is a grim as Steelhaven itself & there is some swearing in this book.
Overall, a lightweight, enjoyable read & I look forward to the sequel!
on 13 January 2016
This is my kind of book. It took me a while to warm to however it was well worth sticking with. Great and complex characters with reluctant heroes. Muck and gore with gritty dialogue and dark humour. One of the best books I have read for years. Bring on book two in the series.
on 29 July 2013
This is an excellent start to a new fantasy series, set in Steelhaven, an unlovely metropolis with a population coming close to panic as defeat in battle brings the threat of invasion very close.
The characters, initially seeming a fairly unattractive lot, have a solid feeling of reality about them, from River the reluctant assassin, Merrick who has fallen from grace to become a drunk and swindler, Nobul the heartbroken veteran of past battles and Waylian, an apprentice who cannot believe he will ever do magic, to Kaira the Shieldmaiden and consummate fighter, Janessa, queen when barely out of girlhood and Rag the young pickpocket who has never worn a dress before she is expected to housebreak in one. They all ring true and so does the setting - the reader can virtually smell it!
The main characters are introduced one by one and it took me time to get into the swing of the plot as one person is left in a difficult situation and only returned to some time later, but the momentum was enough to carry me on and I found the book very enjoyable. Looking forward to the next installment.
on 19 September 2014
I am very picky about my fantasy authors with my favourite author being steven erikson, however, I have to say Richard Ford as done an excellent job, I have just completed book 1 and 2 and book 2 is even better than the first. An engaging, gritty, plot laden tale in my favourite genre and I have no hesitation in recommending this book. Nice to find an tale in this genre for adults. Looking forward to the next installment.
It took me a little while to get into this, there are a lot of characters to get used to but then it all comes together rather nicely.
Set in a capital city, everything is chucked into the mix that you can imagine from the genre. Assassins, magic, thieves guild, gnarled old warriors, female warriors, impending hoards of bad guys, slavers, court politics etc etc. But once you get used to the assault to your senses and remembering who is who, this is actually pretty good. The characters grow on you, the plot comes together and before you know it you are churning through the pages and are sad when you come to the end.
First in a series (and an impressive debut I thought) and I am looking forward to the next one.
I'm very impressed by this book, a great fantasy world which is gritty and dark and filled with nasty people. At once you are introduced, chapter by chapter to a lot of characters and it can feel from the beginning a little confusing but you need to stick with it and as the book progresses the individual story arcs come together and in some cases merge and you get a more rewarding read. I love some of these characters, Massoum Abassi, Princess Janessa, daughter of King Cael of Steelhaven. Merrick Ryder, Rag, River and my favourite, Waylian Grimm, a magister. The story revolves in and around the great city of Steelhaven, a city not for the faint hearted, danger lurks in every corner and the growing threat from the north and invasion by the warrior Amon Tugha and his armies. This is the first book in a planned series and I am definitely looking forward to reading the second book!
A new fantasy novel. It's the first in a series, thus there's no closure to the storylines at the end. It runs for six hundred and sixty eight pages, and is divided into fifty one chapters plus a prologue and an epilogue.
This is what they call epic fantasy, in that it is set in a kingdom with a monarch and old fashioned weaponry. There are no fantasy creatures. But magic does enter into it.
Steelhaven is a coastal city with a rich history, and many inhabitants. Law enforcement is done by an organisation called the Greencoats. There are those who study magic. A council of magic users. Organised crime is controlled by a shadowy organisation called the Guild. The city also has an organisation of warrior ladies. And one of assassins.
It's also under threat, as a horde of warriors under the control of a warlord head south. But they're still some way off. And the King has taken the army off to battle them.
The story starts with an agent of the warlord coming into the city on a special mission. And instantly experiencing a few things about life in the city.
Then we are introduced to several viewpoint characters. There's a small cast of these. And once they're all introduced, in individual chapters focusing on one at a time, the narrative then returns to one of them in each following chapter. All this is written in the third person present tense.
There's Janessa. Daughter of the king. Who has responsibilities to face up to. And a secret.
Warrior lady Kaira. Who is very good at her work. And has a lot of compassion.
Merrick Ryder. Nobleman turned con artist.
Rag. Child of the streets. Excellent pickpocket.
Nobul. War veteran turned weapons maker. Widower. Who can't connect with his young son.
Waylian. Apprentice magic user. Who isn't very good at it.
River. Superb assassin. With feelings.
This all being a new series and thus presenting a new world and setting to the reader means it could take a while to get into. But right from the first few paragraphs of the prologue, it is very readable indeed. There aren't too many made up names in strange languages to get used, and the prose is very clear and very readable. Thus you are hooked quite quickly.
Once you then get past all the chapters that introduce the characters, this taking up roughly seventy pages, you do get used to them as well. Their stories do each begin to intrigue.
There's a lot going on here, but everything unfolds at just the right pace to keep you hooked. Storylines don't all remain separate, and they do start to interact. To say any more about that would involve spoilers.
The way they all go though does keep you hooked. There are great surprises and developments and all the characters go through a lot of development along the way, leaving them and the story in a very different place by the end.
Plus the reader desperate to know what will happen next.
This is fantasy for older readers, because it does have strong language and violence and adult situations.
But it contains appealing characters in an interesting setting and a story that leaves you desperate to know what will happen next.
Unlike most books of this kind this doesn't have a map or a glossary or a cast of characters, but the level of detail is just right, so you can get along fine without them.
A very fine start to a series, and a book that I hugely enjoyed reading. I look forward to the next one.
Hearld of the Storm is an unpretentious, perhaps unremarkable epic fantasy. It also happens to be bloody good. Eschewing the current vogue for 'Grimdark' novels where a darker set of clichés have subverted the old, Ford has opted for well-rounded, believable characters that actually develop. It is his strong characterisation that make the novel so readable, particularly in the last hundred pages.
The structure is of a type I like, with multiple points of view that converge towards a unified whole. At 600+ pages it is perhaps a little long. The overreaching story arc is slow to reveal itself. Indeed, this being the first book in a series, there is still much hidden. It did at one point feel as though I were reading six stories at once, without there being any obvious reason the story was being told that way.
But as the strands entwine the bigger picture begins to come clear, and it's a satisfying landscape to behold. The standard tropes are here. Reluctant royal, Wizard's apprentice, conflicted thief. Also added are a temple warrior, a peerless assassin, a street child and a bitter veteran. On the surface these are nothing new, but Ford brings them to life as people beyond their labels. There are some strong female characters too, which adds another dimension to the book.
Ford's prose is very readable with more than a dash of violence and swearing. Each scene zips along. I devoured the last hundred, hungry to find out what happens. Little is resolved, but there are any number of interesting threads to be gathered in book two. If you like your fantasy simple but hearty there is much to enjoy here, and the promise of much more to come.
This is a relatively good start for a new author and what seems to be a new fantasy trilogy. Like all good books of its kind, it reads well (for me, at least), although the story is not terribly original and neither is the set of characters.
The story is that of a troubled kingdom made up of five provinces and four cities, the so-called Free States, united by their ageing King Cael some three decades ago against a common enemy (some kind of inhuman monsters - the story does not go into too much detail at this stage). The Kingdom is at war and facing invasion from savage and barbarian hordes from the north commanded by a mysterious warlord and his two lieutenants who seem to be also somewhat inhuman and have special powers. The ageing Kind of the Kingdom's army has marched north to confront and defeat the invaders and the story essentially takes place within the rather squalid capital city, its temples and the palace, as the "herald of the storm" arrives and seeks to destabilize the authorities.
The dominant impression throughout the book is one of somewhat unexplained decay and decadence, with much being made about derelict sectors of the city and slum quarters. The problem I had here is that the author does not clearly explain why or how the "past glories" may have faded away and the rot set in. There is an allusion about the vast city port of Steelhaven not being the busy emporium that it used to be but the reason or reasons for this are just left untold.
The story, which I will refrain from telling, has a number of characters and jumps from one to the other as chapter follows chapter. This is also a well-used technique. However, I found it worked rather well in this book both for presenting the characters and for keeping up the suspense. The characters are not very original. In addition to the ones mentioned on the book's back cover (an unbalanced veteran, a disillusioned assassin, a hapless apprentice, a drunken swindler who is not an "artist", contrary to what another reviewer mentioned, and a desperate thief), you get the young, rebellious princess unsure of herself and who was not meant to be the heir to the throne. All of the characters will, of course, become more than what they are at the beginning and this is quite predictable, not to so almost obvious at times.
Despite all this, and despite the fact that the drama did not quite work as well as it could have for me, I very much enjoyed the read, including the atmosphere of "doom and gloom" and although it felt a bit overdone, at times. Four stars for a good first effort.