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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good romp, although predictable and not very original, 17 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Herald of the Storm (Steelhaven: Book One) (Hardcover)
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.
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