on 14 July 2012
"The Gathering of the Lost" is the second book in The Wall of Night quartet by Helen Lowe. I liked the first book "The Heir of Night" but "The Gathering of the Lost" is better. This book starts 5 years after the events in "The Heir of Night" with the same characters while introducing new ones at the same time. Just be patient and keep reading - Malian and Kalan eventually appear. Malian is the one doing the `gathering' of the title. There is a very touching romantic side story in this fantasy that reads like a political thriller in some parts. There are a lot of things going on and there are revelations. To say more would give too much away.
This book is worth getting and reading. I really enjoyed this well-balanced book. It had the right mix of story-telling, intrigue, character development, action and romance in it for me. It held my attention as a reader. As parts are revealed, the story shifts to another character, then goes back to the previous character who has moved a little further along from the point the reader last saw them, thus avoiding surplus details which can really pad out a book. The reader ends up getting the viewpoints of several characters scattered all over Haarth.
This is very rare for me but I experienced a need to read "The Heir of Night" again after reading "The Gathering of the Lost". I wanted to read "The Heir of Night" again before I started on the second book but didn't have time. There is a lot of information relevant to the story, hidden in discreet details within the easy flow of the writing. Some readers will be surprised once it is out in the open, I know I was. To get the full benefit of this book, I think one would need to read "The Heir of Night" to get the start of it and the history which contributes to the current story.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes epic fantasy, who likes stories that incorporate other genres and not just the standard quest fantasy, and well-developed female and male characters who are a core part of the action. Characters in this book, regardless of whose side they are on, have their good and not-so-good points, which makes me suspect there is more to this ancient war between the Derai and the Darkswarm than what has so far been revealed to the reader. Plus the world-building has been very well done.
On a minor quibble, I wish there had been an updated map printed with the second book. This second story covers a lot more of Haarth and includes countries that are not seen on the map. Having a map gives some sense of geographical context. Haarth is a fascinating place with magic that is possibly unique to each region of the continent, as Malian and Kalan discover as they continue their journey.
I will definitely be getting the next book in the series.
on 20 April 2012
Before I write anything else, I'll mention that the last decade has been good for fantasy literature, because lots of new authors have emerged and several excellent books have been written during the last couple of years. Helen Lowe is one of these good authors, because her books are highly enjoyable and entertaining reading experiences. Her fantasy series, The Wall of Night, is a powerful, complex and beautifully written tale about friendship, duty, loyalty and magic.
Here's a bit of information about the first book, The Heir of Night:
In The Heir of Night the readers were introduced to the world of Haarth, which was divided into different parts. In the northern part of Haarth, The House of Night (one of the nine Derai Houses) stood against the forces of darkness called the Darkswarm. The old powers were beginning to emerge again and Malian (the Heir of the House of Night) found out that she can use old powers and she has a destiny to fulfill. She also noticed that she had to learn who to trust, because enemies were everywhere. She became friends with Kalan, who also could use old powers. The Derai have been afraid of the old powers since the horrible event called the Betrayal. After this horrible event the Derai separated those which had ancient powers from normal people, so Malian's situation was difficult, because she had to think about her life and her destiny. Malian and Kalan were being sent to exile, but they escaped with the help of their friends. Their escape took them to a dangerous place called Jaransor and they had cross it in order to get to a safe place...
And here's information about the second book:
The Gathering of the Lost continues the story of Malian and her allies. The events take place five years after the events of the first book. The Heir of Night was an excellent fantasy book, which established a solid foundation for the series, but it was only the beginning, because now the story evolves more and becomes even more complex as new characters are introduced and new events happen in the world of Haarth.
The world has become a more dangerous place to travel in during the five years, because the Darkswarm seem to be on the move and they seek new alliances and try secretly to do evil things. New and dangerous creatures have also come with the Darkswarm and they cause problems to the characters and their allies. The Darkswarm creatures and monsters are genuinely interesting creatures, because they differ from the usual fantasy monsters.
In the beginning of The Gathering of the Lost, the Heralds of the Guild - Tarathan and Jehane Mor - are in Ij and participate in the Festival of Masks. They meet an old acquaintance who asks their help to find Malian. They also find themselves in a lot of trouble and have to flee from the city... Soon the author changes place and the reader is introduced to Carick, a cartographer, who meets a man called Raven when he's trying to flee outlaws. He is escorted to Normarch (the Northern March of Emer) where he meets local people and gets to know more about them...
This is all that I'm going to write about the story, because there are lots of surprises in store for the reader. These surprises would be spoiled, if I wrote about them (I don't want to spoil anybody's reading pleasure by revealing too many details). All I'll mention is that when the reader finds out what has happened to Malian and Kalan, he/she will be pleasantly surprised. The author also has other surprises in store for her readers, but I won't reveal what they are - you'll have to read this book yourself to find out what they are.
I think that several readers will be interested to know that Helen Lowe writing style has matured and she has developed further as a fantasy author. The Gathering of the Lost proves that Helen Lowe has a gift for creating an imaginative, vivid and complex fantasy world with its own rules and laws.
Helen Lowe's worldbuilding is amazingly detailed and nuanced, because she has created a totally belieavable fantasy world which is inhabited by diverse people. This book is full of conflicts, ancient magic, secrets, surprises and treachery, so there are plenty of fascinating elements for fantasy readers. I think that part of the charm of this book comes from Helen Lowe's background as a poet, because the prose is beautifully lyrical and at times almost poetic (I'll write more about the prose and writing style later).
Helen Lowe wrote about a small part of her fantasy world in The Heir of Night, because the events took mostly place near the Shield Wall of Night, but in this book she writes more about the world of Haarth, its inhabitants and its cities. She writes lovingly and fascinatingly about the different places (Ij and Normarch), their people and their customs. Reading about the new places adds lots of depth to the fantasy world.
The author has found a perfect balance between adventure and political intrigue, because she infuses her storyline with enthralling treachery and political happenings. The ancient oaths and family relations also make this book very intriguing, because they affect how characters react to several things - ancient history plays a big role in this fantasy series. Everybody seems to have their own agendas and enemies can hide as friends, so the characters have to be able to recognize who is a friend and who isn't. The author writes astonishingly well about these things and also about the duties of the characters. Duty, honour, friendship and loyalty mean a lot to the characters and they partly determine how the characters act in different situations and why they have to make difficult choices.
The characters continue to develop in this book and more things are revealed about them. It's especially nice that the author writes more about the heralds and their powers, because they were interesting characters in the first book. When I read the first book I was intrigued by these characters and wanted to find out more about them, so I was delighted to read about them and their Guild House in Ij.
Character interaction is flawless and works perfectly. For example, the heralds and their conversations are believable. It's easy for the reader to imagine that they talk the way they do.
The author introduces several new and well created characters in this book. Reading about Haimyr's relatives was very interesting, because the author didn't reveal much about him in the first book. I also enjoyed reading about the Darkswarm characters, because it was fascinating to see how they think about the people who oppose them and resist their powers - their ruthlessness was intriguing. The other characters (Lord Falk, Girvase, Malisande etc) are also interesting characters.
It's possible that the introduction of new characters may be a bit confusing at first, but when the story gradually opens to the reader, everything makes sense and the reader sees why the author writes about the new characters.
There's interesting magic in the world of Haarth. The magic ranges from harmless and useful magic to evil magic used by the Darkswarm, but everything isn't as black and white as the reader may think, because using magic can be dangerous and seductive, and when a person enters the Gate of Dreams, carelessness can be deadly. Using magic can also be deadly, because there are people which don't like the use of magic (magic can also attract unwelcome attention, because the Darkswarm are able to detect magic users).
The author writes fluently about different forms of magic and magical happenings. For example, the talents and powers of the Heralds are interesting and it's nice to read how they can control their powers. The old powers are fascinating magic powers, because there are people who fear them, but at the same time these people also seem to need them in order to survive the forthcoming conflict with the evil powers of the Darkswarm. People have forgotten how to use the powers, because using old powers has been seen as a bad thing for a long time. There once was a time when old powers were important and people knew how to use them to protect themselves, but things changed radically and it was a mistake to forsake the old powers.
Helen Lowe's prose is excellent. As I already mentioned, her prose is lyrical and almost poetic - this kind of writing is beautiful and it adds a charming atmosphere to the book, because the reader will be enchanted by the carefully chosen words and sentences. Helen Lowe's prose was good in the first book, but it's even better here, because her sentences are beautifully constructed and the descriptions are wonderfully detailed. It's a pleasure to read her graceful and effortlessly flowing prose, because the story moves in an interesting way and all the new events bring more excitement to the book. Helen Lowe creates suspense easily by hinting at certain things, which is nice, because this kind of storytelling keeps the reader interested in the story. She also creates vivid images with her words and makes her fantasy world come to life before the reader's eyes.
I think it's great that Helen Lowe has managed to write a different kind of a fantasy adventure. Usually fantasy adventures are quests and the authors tend to concentrate on telling what the characters do instead of what's happening to them. Helen Lowe writes about characters in a different way, because she cares about her characters and shows how they grow as persons. The inner struggles of her characters add layers of depth to the storyline.
This book has a good and beautifully painted map of the world. It also has a comprehensive glossary of names, places and terms. The glossary is useful, because you can easily check who's who and what the different terms mean if you don't remember them.
The Gathering of the Lost is an adult fantasy book, so there are certain dark and brutal moments in it. These moments are well written (I think that several fans of adult fantasy will enjoy reading about them).
In my opinion The Gathering of the Lost is an excellent and enjoyable fantasy adventure. With this book Helen Lowe shows that it's still possible to write entertaining and original epic fantasy books. She manages to avoid typical clichés and uses traditional fantasy elements to create original fantasy fiction. She also shows lots of ambition by writing about dark happenings, because there are authors who avoid writing about them (the dark happenings are seductively evil and compelling).
When I began to read this book, I knew that I'd be reading a good book, because I enjoyed reading Helen Lowe's previous books, but I have to confess that I was surprised by the quality and scope of this book. This book is much better and more complex than its predecessor and what's best, it's an extremely entertaining book. It's a book which grabs hold of you and won't let go until you've reached the last page (in other words, it's an unputdownable book). I'm sure that when you reach the last page of this book, you want to know when the next book is coming out, because you want read more about the characters and their adventures. I have to confess that I'm eagerly awaiting the third book, Daughter of Blood, because The Gathering of the Lost is one of the best and most entertaining fantasy books I've ever read.
The Gathering of the Lost is an imaginative, deliciously dark and entertaining fantasy book, which can be recommended for fans of quality fantasy. If you enjoyed reading The Heir of Night, you'll love The Gathering of the Lost, because it's entertaining epic fantasy at its best. Compared to The Heir of Night this book is an amazing achievement, because it's everything you expect from a sequel and more - it's bigger, better and more complex.
(PS. If you haven't read any of Helen Lowe's book yet, please read her books, because you're in for a treat!)