Book of the Year 2015 (see all)
Sometimes, I think that fantasy authors from Australia and New Zealand do not get the attention they deserve. In some respects, this has not always been the case – and I can’t claim to be 100% certain of it now, either. However, when talk of “best fantasy writer” reaches my ears, I am left hearing the same handful – Sanderson, Martin, Brooks, etc.
The problem arises for me when the name Helen Lowe isn’t attached to the same conversation.
I first read Helen Lowe back in 2010, when The Heir of Night was published, the first book in her new The Wall of Night series. I loved the first book, and though I openly said that Lowe did not write “with the same skill and depth of thought as some like Sanderson or Erikson, nor with the same breathtaking quality as the likes of Barclay and Gemmell of old”, I was hooked. In 2012, the second book in the series, The Gathering of the Lost was published, and I fell more in love with the series, as the world was expanded and the characters grew.
However, for four years I had no Helen Lowe to read, so when Daughter of Blood rocked up on my doorstep the other week, I had no memory of anything that had come before – other than that I loved the series. I even began reading, in the hope that I would pick up what I needed to remember as I went – but alas, such was not to be.
So I embarked on a quick skim-read of Heir, and then promptly forgot to skim-read Gathering and just read the whole damned book again because it’s so good. Which left me in good stead to jump straight into Daughter of Blood, and boy was I not left wanting.
Daughter of Blood, simply put, erases any doubts I had about Helen Lowe’s writing ability found in Heir, lifting her up (in my opinion) to one of the best fantasy writers currently working. Lowe has such an impressive grasp on her characters, and the world in which they are living and battling to survive, that they seem to come alive off the page. My attachment to Malian grows deeper every time I turn the page, cementing her as one of my favourite characters ever written – right up there with Whiskeyjack, Vin, Tiffany Aching, and Sam Vimes.
Another indicating factor of Helen Lowe’s authorial craft is the way she was able to immediately draw me into two new POV characters. Often, when an author expands their book to encompass more of the world, and more POV characters, they lose their grip on the old or new characters (or both). Not so in Daughter of Blood, where each character is so richly enveloped into the world and lovingly cared for by the author that, as the reader, you can’t help but feel the same way.
The shape of the story that Lowe is weaving begins to take shape, but there is still more we don’t know, though we know how high the stakes are soaring. Preconceived notions of how this story will play out and how long it will take to do so are shattered on the final act of this book, leaving me desperately hoping I won’t have to wait another four years for the next instalment.
Helen Lowe need not be stereotypically compared to George R. R. Martin, for she has as much of the talent with her own way of writing that she should be a household name for fantasy readers the world over. The Wall of Night is shaping up to be a modern classic of fantasy storytelling, and needs to be on your to-read list.
Review by Joshua S Hill
9/10 from 1 reviews
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