How many times have you heard the phrase “never judge a book by its cover”? It's a fair question, but I think that sometimes, as readers, we need to go further and never judge a book by its premise. I'm beginning to find that just because a book has what appears to be a stereotypical premise does not necessarily mean that the book itself will be stereotypically dull.
'The Heir of Night' is the first in a four book series being written by Helen Lowe that, the moment I plunged into its first chapters, had me asking a simple question; why do we love reading books about children performing tasks we would normally deem tough for adults? It's an oft-used stereotype and one that is doomed to fail as often as it is to succeed.
This time, however, I was pleasantly surprised to watch as Lowe didn't succumb to any of the clichéd stereotypes. While the two main characters are thirteen and fourteen apiece, they are positioned in a world where childhood is not necessarily that which we have experienced. Lowe skilfully justifies their roles and the expectations on them by writing them as simply more mature and sure-minded. It works too, and I never felt juxtaposition between their age and their responsibilities or deeds.
Similarly, it appears as if no character is overly precious to the author, which is not to say we can expect to see our two main characters killed off anytime soon. Nevertheless, I was surprised at the fleeting lifespans of characters brought in to fill some perspective or to interact with our main characters. The world is brutal, harsh, and deadly, and as a result the lives of those within this world are held close to the candle.
The magic in this world, the history and mythology, all play a greater role than in many other novels that attempt a sprawling epic. We are continually learning new aspects to the world, to the magic that is there, and the depth of thought that has gone into making the metaphysical aspects of this book is thoroughly impressive.
Everything plays out, in the end, as well. While there is a lot of suspicion to be cast around amongst the players orbiting around our two main characters, at least for me, there is no real clue as to who to mistrust and who to trust. It appears as if everyone could have their own agenda, but whether they play to that supposition or assumption or are true to their spoken word is something that will only be told through time.
I'm not saying that Lowe writes 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, but in a world where fantasy books are often decried as a dime a dozen, Helen Lowe's The Heir of Night is a bright jewel unlooked for, but greatly appreciated.
Review by Joshua S Hill
Mark from London, UK
Same idea as Paul Edwin Zimmer's Dark Border series (1983). Lacks his feel of foreboding doom. Too many miraculous last minute magical escapes from powerful saviours who parachute in from nowhere. Characters to a bit too blase about devastatating news. Otherwise good with some nice touches.
7.1/10 from 2 reviews