Headline, h/b, Â£16.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins
Massoud, a representative of Amon Tugha, approaches Steelhaven with a mission. He is being watched by another of his masterâ€™s men and has no choice but to succeed. Amon Tugha, the would be conqueror, has already put his plans in motion.
Kaira Stormfall, a Shieldmaiden of the Temple of Autumn in Steelhaven, is talented, and she knows it. Confident, strong, admired, Kaira knows her place in the world and she sticks to it without question. A summons from the Exarch, however, is about to shake Kairaâ€™s world.
Janessa is tired of dress fittings and the obligations that fell upon her when the plague took her mother and older siblings. As she comes of age her father, King Cael, expects her to marry for political advantage, and in his absence his aide makes sure to steer Janessa in the desired directions. But Janessa never wanted to be queen, never wanted to marry a man out of obligation. As the feast approaches, Janessa considers alternatives to her future.
Elsewhere, a swindler has gambling debts to pay off and a wealthy mark to work on, a failing student canâ€™t make any progress with his magick lessons and daily endures the ridicule and bullying of his tutor, a street urchin has learnt what it takes to survive but is fast learning that sometimes just having the skills is not enough and an assassin realises that not every target is one he wants to kill.
Herald of the Storm is the first book in a series and delivers historical fantasy in an enjoyable and well written format. Some readers may be familiar with the author from his previous steampunk work but this is something very different. Here we have an epic story with multiple sub plots and an underlying tone of dark magic that follows thieves, warriors, street urchins, nobles, con men, criminals and a failing student as they ultimately all just try to survive the situations thrown at them.
There are a lot of point of view characters in this book, and as you would expect from 600 pages plus the story is complex, so to begin with there is a big investment in getting to know the characters and distinguishing their individual desires and struggles. There is a lot to take in and this is the kind of book that would benefit from a cast index. But once you have got to grips with the different characters the action takes over and it does not disappoint.
The pace is good and does not suffer from the amount of time spent setting scenes and introducing characters. Some of the plotlines seem familiar: Janessaâ€™s reluctance to enter a political marriage and become queen, for example, is not an unfamiliar beginning in fantasy fiction, but when woven in with the other characters and the rest of the action, the story soon moves away from the norm into something exciting and different. A solid start to a new series.