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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars While the kings' away, the rats can play...
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 &...
Published 13 months ago by Sam Woodward

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm...
Got to admit that I'm not a big fantasy reader, but I can enjoy such novels if they're good (Joe Abercrombie, George RR Martin).

This is the first in a new series and is pretty good. There's a large list of characters who bounce around fighting each other, and there's plenty of bloodshed.

Thing is Mr. Martin has rather spoilt this kind of fantasty...
Published 11 months ago by G. J. Oxley


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4.0 out of 5 stars Slow starter burns brightly, 2 May 2013
This review is from: Herald of the Storm (Steelhaven: Book One) (Hardcover)
Epic fantasy is my first love and even if I've since broadened my scope and fallen in love with other subgenres, a good epic tale will always catch my eye. The description for Richard Ford's Herald of the Storm in Headline's spring catalogue certainly jumped out at me and I was really pleased to be sent an ARC earlier this year. I'd read Ford's previous novel Kultus last year and while I had some issues with it - largely due to some really foul language and some uneven world building - I really enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to seeing how Ford would take on epic fantasy. And I have to say, I really liked Herald of the Storm. There were some elements that didn't completely work for me, but Ford's clearly grown as a writer and Herald of the Storm is a totally different sort of book than Kultus was.

Ford tells his story through the viewpoint of seven different characters, with each chapter being told from one character's point of view. Now, I like multiple viewpoint epics quite a lot, but they are quite difficult to pull off and there's a risk the reader might not connect strongly or at all to some of the main characters. In addition, sometimes it makes the story jump arcs so many times that the narrative loses its flow. For me, Herald of the Storm suffered mostly from the latter of these issues, though I did have favourites among the main characters. It takes quite a while before some of these characters pair up, which means that there are seven storylines to follow and whenever one got really moving, we'd get to the next chapter and jump to another character, not knowing when we'd return to the one we just left. This frustrated me as it disturbed the flow of the narrative and I found myself leafing ahead to figure out how much I'd have to read to get to the next chapter for the character we'd just left behind. However, all the storylines felt necessary to the plot, bar two, Rag's and River's, but I think they might be more pivotal in the next book in the series. Why do I say they didn't feel as crucial to the plot as the rest? Because I felt that a number of the impacts they have on the story, mostly through impact on other main characters, might have been accomplished in the story through other means and not changed the story that significantly. But, again, seeing where they end up at the end of the novel, I can see them having far more impacting roles in the next book. However, I did enjoy both of these characters, so I wouldn't have wanted to miss them either.

The protagonists cover all the different strata of life found in the city of Steelhaven. We see the criminal underbelly of the city represented by Rag, River, and Merrick; the working class represented by Nobul; the ecclesiastics represented by Kaira; the scholars represented by Waylian; and the nobility represented by Janessa. This allows us to get to know the city's populace in all walks of life and see how they regard the others, even if in the main they don't consciously cross each other's paths. My favourites were Nobul, Waylian, Kaira, and Merrick. I found them and their arcs most compelling. Nobul is a veteran of the country's bloodiest battle, Bakhaus Gate, which had him see horrors he's never forgotten and left him a changed man. It also meant he wasn't the husband and father he should have been, which drives him to leave behind his life as a smith and join the city watch, the Greencoats. Through Nobul, we get to see the darker side of Steelhaven and how powerless the militia feels and how corrupts many of its members are. I appreciated Nobul's awareness of his vicious streak and his genuine grief and guilt at his treatment of his son. Ford makes him sympathetic but with a dangerous edge and a character that is on the way to redemption which is always an enjoyable thing. Waylian, on the other hand, doesn't need redemption, as he's largely an innocent. A young student at the Towers of Magisters, he's feeling out of his depth and lonely and is on the point of giving up. His is a traditional epic fantasy character trope, that of the young man that discovers his place in life among the doings of the great and powerful. I'm a sucker for the trope, so it's no surprise I liked Waylian, but I liked Ford's treatment of him, taking him to the depths of despair and leaving him more confident, but still unsettled in his new position. Kaira, the Shieldmaiden of Vorenna, is trained as a warrior and is magnificent with a blade, but she is given an assignment that will test her and her allegiance to the Temple to the limits. I liked her a lot and especially once she is paired up with Merrick, their chapters became some of my favourites. The interaction between these two was priceless; Kaira not quite sure what to make of the rake Merrick and Merrick completely stymied by the fact Kaira is rather unreceptive to his legendary charms. There is a lot of humour there. Both Merrick and Kaira go through a lot of change and face many demands on their conscience throughout the book and where they end up at the end of the book was really cool and I can't wait to find out where they go from here.

The only character I found somewhat disappointing, was Janessa. Her storyline was interesting and there was some interesting politicking going on, but much of her story arc deals with her need to marry to be able to rule country. While in the end, Ford sets this stereotype on its ear and in a rather splendid way, there were some elements to Janessa's actions, mostly those to do with her secret love that annoyed me. She only seemed spurred to action because of this man's actions and I thought she showed more potential than that. A far stronger female character, besides Kaira, was Waylian's mentor was Gelredida. She is a powerful mage, who treats herself as an equal to the men around her and doesn't let them dismiss her out of hand for being a woman. Overall, there were some lovely secondary characters in the book and Ford manages to give most of them - with the exception of the many thugs and henchmen our characters encounter, because how much personality does it take to read goon - a distinct personality.

Despite being a true epic fantasy, there are several different flavours to the plot. There's a murder mystery, a heist, a budding partnership between a swindler and a Temple Shieldmaiden, which at times resembles a buddy comedy, all mixed in with your regular political intrigue and warfare sporting epic fantasy. Ford's world-building has improved. It's far more even and while similar to Kultus the narrative is largely confined to one city, we do get a bigger picture of the world beyond. Setting my issues with pacing and some of the characters aside, I really enjoyed Herald of the Storm. With only a hundred pages to go, I had to force myself to put the book down because I'd have wanted to finish it otherwise and I really needed to get some sleep. The book is a somewhat slow starter, but it burns brightly once it's out of the gate. Ford has created a really solid first epic fantasy novel and I'm looking forward to reuniting with our protagonists to see where Ford takes them next. If you're looking for some big epic fantasy to lose yourself in over the summer, Herald of the Storm is a good place to start.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good story - interesting characters, 27 April 2014
By 
Mark Shackelford "mark shackelford" (Worthing, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Herald of the Storm (Steelhaven: Book One) (Hardcover)
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I very nearly gave up on this book after the first chapter. The prose seemed sluggish with too many unnecessary long words ('proceeded' instead of 'went' etc.). I put it on my "pile to go to the charity shop"... but then reread the other Amazon reviews, all of who seemed to think it was excellent.
So I persevered... and then I realised that each chapter is written in the style of speech of the character. The first chapter's character is a bit grandiose, but then you meet "Rag" who is a street urchin, and her chapter is written with a Cockney lilt.
Very clever - and, having now read all the way through, I am very grateful to the other Amazon reviewers who persuaded me to carry on!
Set in a sort of middle ages, bit of a "Game of Thrones" world - kings and princes, magicians and mercenaries, plots and counter plots - the story clatters along with seven or eight major characters each taking their turn at a chapter... I assume there are several more books in the series to come - as, although the individual characters are well drawn and each of their stories well worth reading - their story arcs are nowhere near approaching each other (yet)... But I will certainly be reading the next one in the series.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gritty rewarding fantasy., 10 Aug. 2013
By 
Martin Belcher (Hampshire, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Herald of the Storm (Steelhaven: Book One) (Hardcover)
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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!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ... am very picky about my fantasy authors with my favourite author being steven erikson, 19 Sept. 2014
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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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good Beginning To A Fantasy Series, 15 May 2014
By 
H. Pierce (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Herald of the Storm (Steelhaven: Book One) (Hardcover)
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Fantasy is a topic that sometimes fails to meet the potential of avid fans. Luckily, I cannot say that about the beginning of this new series. I was surprised, and pleased, that this seems to have got off to a solid start.

The story itself is not outstandingly original, but that isn't really to the detriment of the tale. I find it increasingly difficult to find a fantasy novel that does not contain some of the traditional fantasy staples. When you think about it, though, this is true in any genre of novel. In fact, it is the fantasy staples that fans tend to enjoy so much.

All of that aside, the novel is well-written and is of decent size. The characters are of sound quality, and memorable enough to be able to differentiate them from each other straight away. There is a lot of action in this novel too, which keeps the tale moving on swiftly.

Overall, I would recommend this book to any fantasy fans, and to anyone else who fancies dipping their toes into the genre. I cannot tell you much about the plot for fear that it will spoil your enjoyment, but I do hope that you enjoy it as much as I have.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid series opener..., 25 Jan. 2014
By 
AyJay (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Herald of the Storm (Steelhaven: Book One) (Hardcover)
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I did really enjoy this book and was interested enough that I will happily buy more books set in this world myself, despite the sometimes bog standard elements of the genre that occur. I do like the main characters, the mix of fantasy, adventure and mystery in the plot, and I am eager to get to know the rest of the cast a bit more in future entries to this series.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Storm of Steel, 11 Dec. 2013
By 
Quicksilver (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Herald of the Storm (Steelhaven: Book One) (Hardcover)
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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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Masterful weaver of tales, 3 May 2014
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As the 1st book in the series it weaves the tales of multiple characters in a style similar to Game of Thrones, I look forward to seeing if it stands up to that benchmark in the future
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 8 April 2014
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Great characters. Great plot. Can't wait for book two.

Good opener, plenty of back story to keep your attention, but not too much as to spoil the upcoming events.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars promising start, 27 Jan. 2014
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Good start to an intriguing story line , i am looking forward to seeing how the characters knit together .
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Herald of the Storm (Steelhaven: Book One)
Herald of the Storm (Steelhaven: Book One) by Richard Ford (Hardcover - 25 April 2013)
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