The Gathering of the Lost by Helen Lowe
Review by Joshua S Hill
I have found over the years that an author who has a great imagination and story to tell does not necessarily need to be perfectly technically proficient to entertain me. However, an author who is technically proficient but doesn’t have a healthy imagination is always going to leave me disappointed. Long story short, tell me a good story and I’ll ignore your shortcomings.
Helen Lowe is a perfect example of how an author doesn’t need to be technically brilliant to entertain me. I can point out a half-dozen different things that could easily have left me seething if it weren’t for the utter genius of the story being told.
Five years after the Darkswarm assault on her stronghold home, Malian of Night remains missing, believed dead in the wilds of Jaransor. But not all accept her death and now her enemies are on the hunt. Suspicion falls on the heralds Tarathan and Jehane, who find themselves caught in a web of intrigue and murder during the Ijiri Festival of Masks. They flee bearing word of a death on the Wall – and a call to duty and honour that Malian must answer or be forsworn.
Yet after five years of searching, the legendary weapons of the Derai’s greatest hero remain lost. Without them, a return to the Wall of Night promises only defeat and death.
Returning to this world was a wonderful experience for me. I enjoyed Lowe’s first instalment in her ‘The Wall of Night Series’ and was eagerly anticipating the return. The characters and ideas portrayed in Lowe’s writing enthral me and capture my imagination like very few other books. There is no great load of explanation so that we understand the intricacies of the religion or history of the world, and mysteries are left to play out over time, with the reader none the wiser than any of the characters.
Spending so much time with Jehane Mor and Tarathan was wonderful, and the twists and turned that followed their stories literally had me gasping out loud at points.
Malian was wonderful, perfectly grown up and confident with still this innocence to her that makes her entirely relatable and captivating. Kalan’s roll has grown as well, and both are now more than just “heir” and “subject”, growing into roles that are as fleshed out as you could hope for.
There was some laziness on the part of the author, I found; times when a change of perspective was made simply because the author had no other idea how to get the information in. I remember Robin Hobb once told me that if a piece of information can’t be made to come from your main character, it probably shouldn’t be in there. Several times throughout this book I noticed this; points where I knew we had jumped into a POV simply because the author could not work out how to convey the information otherwise.
But as I said at the beginning, overwhelm me with a story that leaves me reading well past my bedtime and I’ll forgive you just about anything.
The Gathering of the Lost returns the reader to a world of hidden history and shadowed loyalties and keeps you there until well past your bedtime, loving every minute of it.
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