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Bane of Kings writes a review of the 2012 David Gemmell Morningstar award winning novel, The Heir of Night, by Helen Lowe, published by Orbit Books.
“A strong opener to a series that I will certainly be reading more of despite its flaws.” ~The Founding Fields
A few days before The Heir of Night won the David Gemell Morningstar award, a copy of the novel turned up on my doorstep alongside Michael J. Sullivan’s The Heir of Novron (which will be reviewed later), and as I’d heard good things about this book, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. When I found out that Lowe’s first ‘adult fantasy’ won the Morningstar award, I was motivated to read this even sooner. And, was I disappointed? Well, no. I enjoyed this novel and will be picking up the sequel, but unfortunately, The Heir of Night did have some issues.
If Night falls, all fall . . .
In the far north of the world of Haarth lies the bitter mountain range known as the Wall of Night. Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the Wall is the final bastion between the peoples of Haarth and the Swarm of Dark–which the Derai have been fighting across worlds and time.
Malian, Heir to the House of Night, knows the history of her people: the unending war with the Darkswarm; the legendary heroes, blazing with long-lost power; the internal strife that has fractured the Derai’s former strength. But now the Darkswarm is rising again, and Malian’s destiny as Heir of Night is bound inextricably to both ancient legend and any future the Derai–or Haarth–may have.
The author’s main strength is clearly her female characters, and if you’ll read The Heir of Night, you’ll find out why. Malian is a strong, central protagonist, and although not as memorable as Vin from the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson, she is certainly a better character to have as your lead than say, Bella Swan from Twilight. But Malian’s far from the only female character that populate the pages of the first novel in the Wall of Night series, and Lowe has created a female cast that takes a step outside the role that we see females commonly taking in epic fantasy stories, and in The House of the Night, several members are female, from the Honour Guard Captain to his own heir, which is makes an interesting change from the male dominated worlds like Lord of the Rings.
The world-building in The Heir of Night has a lot of depth in it, with a lot of effort put in to describing the world of the Derai, and you can tell that the author has not made stuff up as she went along. In case you get lost as to what some of the terms mean in the novel, there’s even an ever helpful glossary at the end of the book, which I found myself checking every now and again. If you’re wondering whether the in depth world building detracts from the pace, then don’t worry, as with Lowe, you’re in safe hands and it never feels like you’re being given too much information.
However, I mentioned earlier that The Heir of Night suffered from some flaws, and unfortunately, there are a fair bit of them. It uses the old ‘Chosen One’ cliché, so you get a fair bit of deus ex machina early on in the book, which I wasn’t a big fan of. However, despite that, Lowe still managed to keep me hooked with her in-depth world building, some superb battle scenes and a strong narrative told from mostly the third person POV of Malian. And another good thing is that apart from the aforementioned cliché, Lowe doesn’t stick to any of the well established clichéd stereotypes, which is a good thing if you’re bored to death of them.
At some points, The Heir of Night does feel like a young adult novel, and it quite easily could have been marketing as one with no changes to the plot whatsoever, particularly with the young age of the main characters, Kalan and Malian. This didn’t put me off though, as the book was well written enough to take my mind from that fact.
Although our two main protagonists are not going to be killed off any time soon, with The Heir of Night being the first in a four book series, Lowe seemingly isn’t attached to any of the other characters and there are several that meet their end, suffering particularly short lifespans in this novel, so you don’t really know if most of the cast will make it midway through the novel, or indeed – to the next installment, which adds to the suspense created in this novel. The pace is even throughout the novel and there are no boring scenes which you will find yourself skipping, as Lowe manages to keep you reading despite the novel’s flaws.
All said though, whilst The Heir of Night may not be a perfect novel, it’s still an enjoyable and entertaining read that should not be overlooked.
The Wall of Night Series: The Heir of Night, The Gathering Lost