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4.2 out of 5 stars
67
4.2 out of 5 stars
Herald of the Storm (Steelhaven: Book One)
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on 3 February 2017
I absolutely loved this book and I highly recommend it.

Firstly, I should say that the synopsis does not do the story justice; you'd think this was solely another war/ battle based fantasy novel after reading it and whilst the threat of war pervades and hangs over the cast, this is actually a multi point of view character based novel.

It has magic, politics, world building, fights and mystery; everything you'd want from a fantasy novel. But what elevates this above the standard stuff are the characters. The book's structure dedicates alternating chapters to a multitude of lead characters. Initially, I was sceptical because I didn't feel there would be enough page time to give each one sufficient depth and growth: I was wrong, virtually every one is a fully fleshed, flawed and interesting creation.

The fact that you miss each one when the chapter ends, yet look forward to reading about the next one says a lot about the skill of the author. I loved how the actions of one indirectly affected another later and as the book progresses their paths begin to cross and it's a pleasure seeing them interact and influence each other.

The level of care and attention given to the characters and plot by the author makes this a joy to read. It's fast paced, deep and complex yet at the same time easy to read. As expected, plots are left hanging for book two but I can't wait to see what the author does next within this world.

Another masterstroke was to set the entire novel within one city. It means the city itself becomes a part of the story and it was well described and varied.

There were times when the author genuinely shocked me, events and decisions taken by the characters were unpredictable and it made it all the more exciting.

I'd recommend this to fans of Michael J Sullivan's fantastic books.

Brilliant stuff. 10/10
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on 8 April 2014
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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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 17 June 2013
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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on 23 April 2014
Telling stories using the points of view of a lot of characters has gotten popular recently, but authors should be wary of jumping on the bandwagon. The first 7 chapters or so all feature new characters, and do so at the expense of capturing the attention of the reader early on with the narrative, and without giving any character time to shine. When fighting starts, I think the author overdoes it, making the characters just a bit too super-human for dark fantasy for my tastes.

In contrast, Game of Thrones starts with with a powerful prologue and then (for the most part) weaves the characters around each other developing the events of the visit of the King to Winterfell.

The book is really let down by the weak opening and flitting between initially unrelated characters with little immediate plot binding the threads together or reinforcing them in your mind.
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on 19 October 2013
Good plot development, good characters, good pace and well edited.
Tough to build a new world nowadays but I do like this.
Well done Mr Ford...now where's the next episode?
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on 30 June 2013
I thought this was a fantastic read. Good characters and a good strong plot to go alongside it. Really good book.
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on 29 July 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.
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VINE VOICEon 17 June 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 27 July 2013
This is the first in a series. There is quite a lot of introductory exposition on a lot of characters for the first six or so chapters in the book, so it is a book which I think you need to allow yourself some time to get into. Having said that, the characters are very intriguing right from the start. We read first of Massoum Abbasi travelling to Steelhaven; then the Princess Janessa and her father King Cael; the Shieldmaidens of Vorena in the Temple of Autumn; Merrick Ryder and his conman tricks; Rag stealing to survive in the city; Nobul the metalsmith; Waylian Grimm the aspiring Magister; and River the assassin. Lots of characters all finding their way drawn to the city of Steelhaven as war continues in the surrounding countryside, and ambition and greed jostle with humility and honour.

There was a heck of a lot going on in this book; lots of people, some of whom came in and you had just got to figure out who they were when they flitted off again; lots of action with lots of different groups of people all making their own struggles. I can't quite put my finger on why the book almost, but not quite worked for me. I think in the end it was all just so busy that you couldn't concentrate on just a few threads of action. So, four stars rather than five from me.

There's heaps of potential in this book and in the series, and in the world that the author has created. I look forward to the next book, where it would be good to see some background on Amon Tugha and the Khurta, the Father of Killers and Azrael and Endellion. And more action with Waylian Grimm, who seems to be finding his way slowly. Here's hoping anyway
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on 24 July 2013
Herald of the Storm is the first book in Richard Ford's new trilogy: Steelhaven. Set in the city of the same name, Herald of the Storm focuses on a group of characters who live in the city - some from the ruling classes, some that work at the outer shades of society and some that live on the streets. At the heart of the story is Janessa, daughter to King Cael the Uniter who, as the story opens, is out fighting a war and holding off a host of barbaric hordes. Janessa is left to deal with minor matters of state, leaving most of the bigger issues to her father's counsellors. But as the book opens, a foreigner makes his way into Steelhaven, spreading tidings and prophecies, brokering deals and agreements from within the city's criminal underworld. He is the voice of the Elharim warlord, Amon Tugha - the voice of doom and bloody war; the Herald of the Storm.

In Herald of the Storm we follow the lives of seven main POV characters, interlinking their stories in major and minor ways as the book progresses. Through a series of different sub-plots, each character is always only a few connections away from any of the others at any given time. They cross paths in ways that are at times hilarious, shocking and vital to the development of each of their separate sub-plots. Ford's characters are all in some way cut from the same cloth as other major POV characters we've seen in epic fantasy in the last decade or so. There is the grumpy teenage princess, the confused assassin, the loveable swindler and lots more. But this is absolutely deliberate on the part of Ford. It is the interactions between these characters that he excels at. He's taken some familiar character types and thrown them all into one big playground together - and sparks most certainly fly. Each one feels well developed and their personalities are unwavering. They all have a fundamental system at their cores which Ford never compromises, meaning the characters are always what drives the story.

At the centre of the novel sits the city of Steelhaven. In this, Ford has taken elements of other great fantasy cities and created his own teeming hive of life and death. There's nothing particularly original about Steelhaven itself, but as the entire novel is set in its depths, Ford has managed to breathe life into something which could have become tiresome quickly. Each of the characters are connected to Steelhaven in ways that go deeper than simply living there. By setting the entirety of the book in one city, Ford manages to tie the reader to its fate. We constantly hear of problems that Steelhaven could face with the war and through the characters we see why this is so important to the people of Steelhaven at every class level. It's an interesting way of setting an epic fantasy because normally we're introduced to multiple locales - but in Herald of the Storm, we're left in just one city. It allows Ford to establish the importance of Steelhaven before presumably showing us some more of his world in the next book.

Perhaps the biggest problem I had with Herald of the Storm was its lack of a cohesive central plot. I've mentioned previously that the novel is made up of an interconnecting series of sub-plots, but there isn't really anything which ties them together. Instead it often feels like a series of vignettes that only have the city of Steelhaven itself in common. The main "plot" of the series seems to be that of the war between the hordes of Amon Tugha and the Free States, but in Herald of the Storm this all takes place "off-screen". Part of me thinks this may have been deliberate on the part of Ford - it's a little like the main plot is always going on "over there" and his novel is instead showing us what happens on the sidelines of epic fantasy. It's also evident by the end that the next book will explore more of the world outside Steelhaven, so hopefully the main series' plot comes into clearer focus.

Herald of the Storm takes the fundamental parts of gritty, epic fantasy and puts the focus on character first. It's filled with big personalities that each have their own stake in keeping the city of Steelhaven safe from the constant threat of war. The lack of any cohesive plot throughout the novel may be an issue for some, but this is the story of one city in a vast fantasy world. It's testament to Ford's world building skills that although we never leave the city of Steelhaven, we do get the sense that outside its walls is a whole world, just ready for exploring. If you love the works of Joe Abercrombie or even George R.R. Martin you will probably find something to enjoy in Steelhaven - it's violent, vicious and darkly funny. Book Two can't come fast enough - bring it on.
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