Heir of Night by Helen Lowe

29 Mar 2016 by

Heir of Night is a solid entry into the epic fantasy genre with a lot of promise.

Synopsis

Malian is a girl, but she’s also the Heir to the House of Night. An only child, her line stops with her. According to the old prophecy, if Night falls, all fall. No wonder people begin to panic when the Derai’s ancient enemy, the Darkswarm, target Malian and invade the Keep of Winds.

Luckily, Malian has a whole host of interesting people on her side: Kalan, a priest of the Temple; Asantir, Honor Captain; Sister Korriya, blood-kin; Haimyr, a bard full of mystery; Nhairin, the high steward and lifelong guide. After all, the prophecy also stated that when the One came again, she would not be alone.

Unfortunately, it seems someone, somewhere has betrayed Malian. While the Earl of Night, Tasarion, spends long hours trying to figure out exactly what is going on his keep, he has no answers. How can he protect his house, his honor, and his daughter? Which will win out?

The Illumination

Every once in awhile I get hold of a book and grips me back. That was the case with Heir of Night, which I started reading on January 17. I finished the book in a reasonable amount of time, but the ending left me with so many questions that I needed to re-read it and re-process. I took a small break then picked it up and read it again, finishing it last night. There is just something about the simplistic language and ease of reading in this epic fantasy that I find utterly refreshing. That isn’t to say that the content is novel. It isn’t. I just really, really enjoyed it.

I know that I should delve into the characters, the plot, the setting, and the themes, but I can’t. I need to get this comparison to other authors off my chest. I could spend a few hours dithering about how to write this smoothly, but I’m not going to do that this time. You’ll get a list instead.

  • The very beginning sentences of the very first chapter are thus: “The wind blew out of the northwest in dry, fierce gusts, sweeping across the face of the Gray Lands. It clawed at the close-hauled shutters and billowed every tapestry and hanging banner in the keep.” C’mon. It’s Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. In fact, it very much reminds me of The Eye of the World in its compactness and compelling story… Before Jordan ruined it.
  • I got more wisps of Wheel of Time when the group was trying to decide whether or not to enter Jaransor – very much like the decision the protagonists made when they tried to decide if they were going to enter Aridhol.
  • In the first chapter, Malian is “swarming” up the Old Keep and climbing about, looking places where she isn’t allowed, and daydreaming. Tad Williams’ Simon from Dragonbone Chair, obviously. Or, alternatively, Bran Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. Although that wasn’t the feeling I got. Maybe because I’m such a Tad Williams fan…. And, after all, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn did come out first.
  • I’ll never forget reading about Kahlan Amnell and Richard Cypher throughout The Sword of Truth In particular, Richard’s journey through the Valley of the Lost wherein the Towers of Perdition raged. Seems a bit like Jaransor’s towers, no?
  • The switching view points has been used in many different novels, but it is perhaps most well known now to A Song of Ice and Fire since Martin does it so very well. Then, of course, the wall. I mean, do I really need to say any more?

I’m sure there were other references that I caught as I went, although these are what I remember as I’ve reached the end. Twice. Drop me a note in the comments if you caught others that I missed.

Okay. So. I suppose I should get back on track here.

Characters

Malian is a semi-interesting character who shows a little growth over the novel. She’s the typical protagonist: her mother is presumed dead and she grew up with a cold and distant father, her retainers are her only friends, she’s über powerful but doesn’t know it, she likes to slough off her responsibility (at least in the beginning). She’s supposedly young, but reacts more like an adult or older teenager.

Kalan (even his NAME reminds me of Kahlan) is also powerful magically, albeit he is bitter about it. He’s estranged from his family and has been exiled and isolated in the temple. He stumbles across Malian and they become bonded. (I can’t go further because I don’t want to give too much away.) His backstory is that of a pre-teen or young teen, but his attitude is more like an adult once the story gets going.

Then there is Asantir, the very skilled Honor Captain who seems to have a hidden agenda, and the mysterious heralds.

To abruptly wrap this up instead of going on – they’re all tropes. Each and every one. There’s nothing surprising about any of the characters. But, there’s something very reassuring about that.

I appreciate that there is a balance of male and female characters throughout the novel with a variety of abilities. It feels natural, too, and not forced.

Writing

I really enjoyed Ms. Lowe’s writing style. Like I stated above, it is simplistic, but not in such a way as to feel too much like a j-fic novel. Everything flows really well and nothing jarred me out of the novel (besides the flashbacks to previous novels).

Setting

I was able to jump right into the Derai culture. It’s fleshed out enough to be interesting, but there were still enough holes for me to fill in my own details and get cozy. I felt comfortable since it fits so well into the epic fantasy genre, yet the world was new as well. I enjoyed the sci-fi-ish Derai backstory (I won’t give it away!) and the conflicts that arise because of it. Very much reminded me of the Draenei in World of Warcraft. The greater area of Haarth sounds promising and future novels will probably explore and enhance the information already presented, to which I’m looking forward. The landscapes are very well detailed and developed. Areas are distinct and well-realized with details that are revealed over time and supported through subtle repetition. No braid yanking here.

One of the more interesting things was how Lowe referenced mythology repeatedly before she actually explained what it was. I kept notes as I went and when I got the explanation of who a certain god or goddess was, I was able to go back and read those passages with the context. Even then, my second read-through I caught so many more interesting details and twists. Suddenly sentences could be read to mean something completely different than the first time I read it.

Themes

There are so many themes and motifs packed into this novel, but the ones that I found most interesting are the placement of loyalties and how to determine who to trust, good vs evil and its complications, supplanting natives and the results, and that if you forget your history or past skills, you will have less power. Weather (Wall Storms and wind) figure into the story as well, with powerful natural elements highlighted.

Plot

I’m not going to spend a lot of time here. The plot is pretty standard to epic fantasy – a coming-of-age story with a strong heroine. I didn’t note any really plot holes at any point and it seemed believable.

Conclusion

Go into this with the right mind set. It’s not original, but it’s interesting epic fantasy. It has great potential as a series, and several of the books are out already. Even if you don’t go on, it’s a good read on its own (although it doesn’t truly end in this book).

fgtg_fivestars

Information

Heir of Night
The Wall of Night, Book One
by Helen Lowe

Publisher: EOS, a HarperCollins imprint
Published September 28, 2010 Pages: 482
Review Source: received from Harper Voyager,
as part of their Harper Voyager Super Readers program
Review Format: paperback
ISBN: 978-0-06-173404-5 Finished on February 2, 2016

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