The Heir of Night (Wall of Night series) Mass Market Paperback – Illustrated, September 28, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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“Lowe’s first novel, a series opener, calls to mind the inchoate evil of Barbara Hambly’s classic ‘Darwath Trilogy’ and reinvigorates the epic fantasy with appealing characters and a richly detailed world.” (Library Journal)
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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.
(1) 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.
(2) 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.
(3) 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.
(4) 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?
(5) The switching view points has been used in many different novels, but it is perhaps most well known now in A Song of Ice and Fire since Martin does it so very well. Then, of course, the entire wall thing.
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.
Okay. So. I suppose I should get back on track here.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
This novel was given to me by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. I received no other compensation. Go go Harper Voyager Super Readers.
Honestly, I had to restart the novel a couple of times because you really have to pay attention until you get the names down, after that the story sweeps you up and carries you the rest of the way. I hate to say this book surprised me, because I didn't really have any expectations, but it felt so much like a piece by C.S. Friedman (Coldfire Trilogy) or Melanie Rawn (unfinished Exiles trilogy) that I kept being wowed that I hadn't heard of these books before. I had the same reaction when reading Dave de Burgh's "Betrayal's Shadow" (which is also similar to this with the scifi twist) but put it off to the fact that it was his first book and was from South Africa (I tend to get around for an Okie, on the net at least). Yes, I know she's from New Zealand, but it seems that part of the world has better representation, plus the third book is already in production and this is the first I'd heard of it!
So yeah, about that scifi twist they all have in common (and isn't a spoiler for any except maybe the Rawn books, but then the name of the trilogy -is- Exiles): the story is good, somewhat dark, fantasy and stayed that way throughout, but the premise is that the Derai (one of the peoples in the book) are a spacefaring folk that escaped to the planet. Friedman had settlers, Rawn had exiles, de Burgh (again, like Lowe) has refugees, combatants in an interstellar battle.
I just want to take a moment and say how much I enjoy blended novels when they're done this well. King and his Dark Tower blends horror and westerns and SF/F. Tamara Jones does a mass conglomeration in every one of her novels but it all flows together. And that's what this book has done.
Helen Lowe has one hell of a voice and an imagination to match. I'm glad I already have the rest of the trilogy on hand, because I think things are just getting warmed up. :D
Great book, easy 5 stars. If you're a fan of any of the books I listed then check this one out, trust me.
Even with all the similarities, this is a very different story. Malian is a much more traditional hero-in-training the Jamethiel. Some of the strange complexities of Hodgell's tale are missing here, although there are enough complicating elements to keep things interesting. Godstalk starts with the protagonist long separated from her family, whereas Malian is living in her home fort as the story begins. I find Hodgell's work richer and better executed, but this is an enjoyable story. I will read the sequel to see where it goes.