Orion: The Vaults of Winter by Darius Hinks – Advance Review [Lord of the Night]

He's bigger than he looks, in summer at least.

Lord of the Night reviews the darkly magical Orion: The Vaults of Winter, the first in the Orion Trilogy, by Gemmell award winning author Darius Hinks, author of Warrior Priest and Sigvald.

“An epic tale of curses, daemons, magic and a realm that is the inverse of every fairy tale ever told. A promising start to a new series.” – The Founding Fields

Darius Hinks is not an author that I think of a lot, as the only book i’ve read of his prior to this is Sigvald and the novella Sanctus. With the release of Orion: The Vaults of Winter however I now have reason to think about his work more often as he has started a very interesting trilogy with a good novel that promises more in the near future.

The forest is waiting, the cycle of the seasons is nearing its new beginning and with the dawn of spring the Queen Ariel and her immortal lover Orion will arise from their slumber and usher in a new year for the Asrai and the forest of Athel Loren. But this cycle has been cursed, dark forces conspire to destroy the Asrai through the Consort-King’s own natural wrath. Orion must discover whom has cursed him, and why, or else the Asrai will be doomed to extinction in their own forest as the Blood-Kin seek to make their own domain. But the true enemy does not lie in the ranks of the cloven ones, but rather among the Asrai themselves.

He’s bigger than he looks, in summer at least.

The story that Orion: The Vaults of Winter starts is enjoyable and goes in-depth in its examination of the Asrai as a race and of the cycle of life and death and rebirth that Orion is bound to. Chiefly the story is split into two groups, Orion and his Priests of Kurnous as they hunt across the forest for those that would deny Orion’s rule, and the Darkling Prince Finavar and his Kinband as they attempt to prove that the forest is under attack. Personally I enjoyed Finavar’s story more as it was more interesting to me than Orion’s hunt. Secondary elements to the story are present with Ghorgus Four-Legs the Lord of the Blood-Kin, Prince Haldus the Hawk-Rider who plays a key role in the second half of the novel and the Lady Ordaana whose story is the reason I look forward to the second book of this series.

The characters of the series are featured in a nicely done Dramatis Personae so you can check to see who is who and where they are affiliated, and as characters they do not disappoint. Orion is a character that felt god-like at times, but also mortal in his desire to protect Ariel and his need to be recognized as the sovereign of the forest, and the element of rebirth and death that started the novel off was interesting to see. Finavar the Darkling Prince and his Kinband were very nicely contrasted, as Shadowdancers of Loec they are a much more merry group but varied as well and I do look forward to seeing them again. I enjoyed how Hinks made the characters very clearly fey in nature, not good or evil. I felt the best example were the two characters Finavar and Alhena, Finavar being a merry hero of the commoners and Alhena being a near feral huntress that serves him. Yet Finavar was capable of his own ferocity and Alhena capable of some kindness which I enjoyed as a reminder that no Asrai is wholly good or evil.

The action in the series was interesting but also slightly confusing for me. The Wood Elves make war like a dance and their highly mobile nature of ambush warfare and the use of the animals and spirits of the forest really set them apart from the other races, and the Beastmen of course were as bloody and powerful as we know them and two of their most powerful creatures made appearances in the novel that I found exciting. But the environments of the battle were, for me, hard to picture. Drune Fell in particular because I felt it was under-described, and of course the clearings and forest lines were difficult to understand where they begin and end. This did not detract from the book a great deal but it would have been nicer to be able to fully picture the battlefield rather than just take a stab at what I think it looks like. Perhaps for the next book a map could be added like the SMB series.

The pacing of the novel is good at times but I felt the first half of the novel is slower than the rest. The last one-hundred pages I breezed through, enjoying every moment of it, but I found it tougher to get through parts of the first two-hundred pages as my interest was not captured in those segments. The story moves along slowly until it reaches Summer when everything speeds up and the tension of Orion’s hunting and the Blood-Kin invasion is really felt as the Wood Elves make their final stand against the outsiders.

My favourite quote is without a doubt this small one, but its filled with meaning and spoken by the character I enjoyed the most but I have not mentioned here.

“Just one. Revenge.”

The ending of the story wraps up the first part while at the same time setting up a few kernels to carry onto the next story. Only one element of the story remains unfinished and I look forward to seeing that most of all, and one character will have new motivations in the next book that I do anticipate finding out exactly how what happened in the final pages will affect that character not only for himself but his views on another character. The epilogue creates some more story elements to carry onto the second book, and the character involved though never named is one that any fan of the Wood Elves should have figured out much earlier on.

For a grim and ethereal story of a fae-like people and their immortal rulers and of the encroaching evil that enters their domain I give Orion: The Vaults of Winter a grand score of 7.5/10, a good score for the first novel and one I hope will increase for the second novel. Hinks has done some good work here and I definitely plan on reading the second Orion novel when I receive it. And I also would like to see Ariel or Finavar on the cover of the next book, or perhaps a certain character that we see in the pages before the epilogue, Darius knows who that is.

Should you buy this book? If your a fan of the Elves then I would advocate this book to you, its a fascinating look into the third side to the Elven race. Druchii and Asur are well-known to us but the Asrai are far more mysterious and this book really delves into them as a separate culture, and of course its brimming with intrigue, Elves and Beastmen killing each other in the forests and is the start of a trilogy that I predict will improve with each release. If Elves aren’t your forte however then this is not the series for you.

That’s it for this review. I’ll be diving into Path of the Outcast next and after that I think i’ll be reviewing some audio-dramas, at least I really hope so. Until next time.

AVE DOMINUS NOX!

Lord of the Night

Lord of the Night is one of TFF’s original reviewers. He’s done quite a few for TFF and that number keeps expanding. You’ll enjoy his diverse mix of book reviews. Always a treat.

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