The Red Heir by Holden R Johnson

Rating 8.0/10
An exhilarating action-packed tale

The Red Heir is the first fantasy novel from the ambitious World Reborn series, the debut outing from Holden R. Johnson. This tale follows the extraordinary and ice-cool assassin Vall Red as he travels through the peculiar magical doors that are mysteriously dotted around Elemor. All we know is that the doors have something to do with the power of magic which was banished from the world (the Essence) and Vall's quest to find his father who went missing twenty years ago.

A common device in novels introducing an audience to a unique, complex and multi-layered world is to use flashback chapters alongside the current day point of view perspectives. Johnson does this admirably well. The modern day events are told through the eyes of about seven well created and vivid characters including the scarred assassin legend that is Vall, Araine - an inexperienced Talim warrior and Rax - the enigmatic leader of the infamous underground network of criminals within Elemor's capital, Helforn. The flashback sequences focus on Vall's upbringing in "the care" of the mysterious Kalor after his father leaves him one day with no explanation. These segments add a great amount of depth to our anti-hero and show the transformation of Vall from a lost youth to the Essence wielding, twin blade flaunting 'Terror of Helforn'.

With the current state of Elemor, only a few people can utilise the power of the essence. From the start of the book, I thought the "magic system" was superbly thought out and some of the possibilities seem endless. Enhanced speed, power, hearing, and sight when needed are a handful of the abilities that are extraordinarily presented in a world where magic is thought by most as being an age old myth. How can certain individuals use the Essence if it has been banished from the world? Wait and see. It reminded me of a less scientific version of Allomancy from the Mistborn series.

A lot of what is presented here has been seen in fantasy before yet it never bothered me as feeling forced or cliche. Other reviewers have said the regurgitation of familiar elements is a problem for them so I am intrigued to see what other readers think. If anything when it comes to elements such as say, souls within a talking sword or unkillable ghost wolves, I can honestly say I liked the way these familiar fantasy elements were presented here more than in the stories of some of the "big-gun" authors of the genre.

This book (and hopefully the entire saga) I believe would appeal to fans of Mistborn, Lies of Locke Lamora (although it is not as complex) and to anyone who likes a kick-ass assassin roaming throughout the pages. I also think it could be enjoyed by a younger audience too however, that isn't to say that it doesn't have a fair amount of death, torturous nightmares, epic showdowns and betrayals.

I imagine we have only just scratched the surface of the possibilities and the stories that could be present in Elemor throughout this series. Although it is already presenting us with numerous histories, different races, and religious beliefs. It truly is an exhilarating action-packed tale that left me breathless for the last twenty-five percent. Even better for fans of this sort of fiction is the fact that after the thrilling finale, it seems like the real story is only just beginning.

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