Hey everyone, hope you’re all well. 🙂
I’ve owed Steven this review for a long while now, so let’s get into it, shall we?
“Caenthell will stay buried, and the North will not rise again until I freely offer my sword to a true descendant of the High Kings—or until one takes it from my dying hands!”
With this curse, the Warlock Malessar destroyed Caenthell. The bloodline of the High Kings disappeared and the kingdom faded into dark legend until even stories of the deed lost their power. But now there is an Heir to the North.
Cassia hopes to make her reputation as a storyteller by witnessing a hardened soldier and a heroic princeling defeat Malessar and his foul curse. But neither of her companions are exactly as they appear, and the truth lies deep within stories that have been buried for centuries.
As Cassia learns secrets both soldier and warlock have kept hidden since the fall of Caenthell, she discovers she can no longer merely bear witness. Cassia must become part of the story; she must choose a side and join the battle.
The North will rise again.
Let’s kick off with the novel’s opening – not only does it set the stage for various plot threads, but it leads the reader into the cool world building Steven has done, too. It also plays with our expectations – which then make the climax of the book even more powerful and effective.
We’re then introduced to the main cast – Cassia, forced to support and follow her story-teller father around; a capable and coldly handsome soldier; and a stoic warlock, protecting not only a legacy but some incredible secrets, too. Cassia starts off as a strong character -self-assured and aware of her strengths, weaknesses and the challenges her relationship with her father brings to her life- and becomes stronger, even as her world and her knowledge of it continues to change and broaden. The soldier and the warlock play important roles in helping her to grow, even as they also embody different aspects of Cassia herself – as their relationships with each other grow, they affect each other in different ways, too. Since they’re the core of the book, this works very well in setting up an important emotional aspect of the book’s climax.
There are all sorts of other characters in the book – soldiers, merchants, even scholars, which add nicely to the narrative by leading the reader into different aspects of the world Steven continues to reveal with each chapter. The characters and the world feel alive and vital, and there’s none of the ‘I think I know where this is headed’ – the smallest bits of information are important to the plot, and there’s no filler.
In terms of action and magic, Steven has a way of making the scenes urgent and spectacular, and I’d love to see what he does with a huge thousands-against-thousands battle.
I enjoyed every damned page, folks. Steven has written a book that not only entertains and is an excellent example of its genre, but which is also thoughtful and leads the reader into questions and discussions which need to be asked and had. It has all the hallmarks I’ve come to expect and enjoy in Fantasy and also reaches deeper and further, and that’s why I wouldn’t mind a huge saga in this world and with these characters. Goes without saying that I’m looking forward to the next book and will get stuck in as soon as I can. 🙂
A richly deserved 9 / 10 – highly recommended!
Until next time,