Ravenheart Award (best cover art): Raymond Swanland - Blood of Aenarion
Morningstar Award (best debut): Helen Lowe - Heir of Night
Legend Award (best novel): Patrick Rothfuss - The Wiseman's Fear
Patrick Rothfuss obviously needs no introduction but I am very excited for Helen Lowe. Her Wall of Night series is fantastic, such a beautiful and lush example of world building and beautiful prose, not to mention a kick-ass heroine and epic story.
I've spoken about Heir of Night before here, but there is nothing to say I cannot do so again :)
These days, while there are a lot of fantasy titles on the market, I am finding less and less of the Epic Fantasy that I really enjoy. This is one of the novels I really enjoyed, and as Book 2 has just been released, I thought it the perfect time to talk about Book 1.
This story is traditional in its fantasy setting, but as with all really good Epic Fantasy, it is the still surface of the pond that deceives the unwary. Haarth is very much its own world and Lowe has created an engrossing tale packed with rich history that you want to know as much about as you do the story itself.
In the north, on the Wall of Night, the war-like Derai guard against their ancient enemy, the Swarm, whom they have battled for thousands of years. But the Swarm have been quiet for decades and the fierce Derai have turned to playing politics among themselves as ruthlessly as they war against their enemies - and cracks in their alliance have begun to spread. Distrust has grown between the warrior caste and the priest caste, who wield magic rather than steel, and the priests have been segregated into enclaves where they are looked down upon with derision. But when Malian, the heir to the House of Night – one of the Derai’s most powerful noble houses – discovers the Swarm have infiltrated the Keep of Winds her burgeoning powers, and the prophecies of the Derai’s final battle against their enemy, sets off a sequence of events that see her forced to flee her home to escape the persecution her abilities will bring, and to find the tools she’ll need to lead the Derai to victory.
This story is filled with old secrets and forgotten lore. Stories of ancient heroes and battles fill the pages in such a way that they seamlessly expand the story, rather than bog the reader down in great wads of info dumping. Lowe’s battle scenes are fast-paced and easily followed, dragging you along until you find yourself still awake far later than you had planned!
Though relatively short for an Epic Fantasy, one of Lowe’s strengths is that the book doesn’t feel short when you read it. It is full of life and tells the reader a great deal about the world in which the story is set – though most of the book is set in the Keep of Winds itself. Lowe’s is an exciting new voice in fantasy fiction with a clean and accessible style that holds great promise for future stories. Book 2 – The Gathering of the Lost – is just as good, if not better!