Hearld of the Storm is an unpretentious, perhaps unremarkable epic fantasy. It also happens to be bloody good. Eschewing the current vogue for ‘Grimdark’ novels where a darker set of clichés have subverted the old, Ford has opted for well-rounded, believable characters that actually develop. It is his strong characterisation that make the novel so readable, particularly in the last hundred pages.
The structure is of a type I like, with multiple points of view that converge towards a unified whole. At 600+ pages it is perhaps a little long. The overreaching story arc is slow to reveal itself. Indeed, this being the first book in a series, there is still much hidden. It did at one point feel as though I were reading six stories at once, without there being any obvious reason the story was being told that way.
But as the strands entwine the bigger picture begins to come clear, and it’s a satisfying landscape to behold. The standard tropes are here. Reluctant royal, Wizard’s apprentice, conflicted thief. Also added are a temple warrior, a peerless assassin, a street child and a bitter veteran. On the surface these are nothing new, but Ford brings them to life as people beyond their labels. There are some strong female characters too, which adds another dimension to the book.
Ford’s prose is very readable with more than a dash of violence and swearing. Each scene zips along. I devoured the last hundred, hungry to find out what happens. Little is resolved, but there are any number of interesting threads to be gathered in book two. If you like your fantasy simple but hearty there is much to enjoy here, and the promise of much more to come.
This book was sent to me as part of the Amazon Vine programme.