Herald of the Storm

Herald of the Storm by Richard Ford, Steelhaven #1

Welcome to Steelhaven... Under the reign of King Cael the Uniter, this vast cityport on the southern coast has for years been a symbol of strength, maintaining an uneasy peace throughout the Free States. 

But now a long shadow hangs over the city, in the form of the dread Elharim warlord, Amon Tugha. When his herald infiltrates the city, looking to exploit its dangerous criminal underworld, and a terrible dark magick that has long been buried once again begins to rise, it could be the beginning of the end. 

In the last few years the grimdark genre has been steadily on the rise slowly transforming the existing epic fantasy. Via a few authors I have gotten nicely acquainted with grimdark fantasy and have thoroughly enjoyed reading those stories. Herald of the Storm is Richard Ford's second book, where his debut Kultus was a steam-powered story, Herald of the Storm is a dark fantasy story, I haven't read Kultus but making a leap from steampunk into grimdark fantasy must be quite a task! Herald of the Storm also kicks-off the fantasy new series: Steelhaven. The second book The Shattered Crown will be out next month from Headline.

If you read the synopsis of Herald of the Storm you might think that this is a short straight forward story, well your wrong if you think that, there are about seven different kind of characters and separate storyline that you get to read. The introduction to Herald of the Storm lays the focus on one of the many different characters that you follow: Massoum Abbasi who is set to travel to the city of Steelhaven as an herald to discuss some important issues with King Cael. For me the book couldn't have had a better introduction, in this first part Richard Ford establishes a pretty strong storyline and help to put the dark essence of the storyline just right, featuring not only the possible outlines of the plot and that the warlord Amon Tugha has nasty things in store, but also a nice dose of action by a head to head fight. I don't know, it's hard to clearly describe but it definitely put a smile on my face! Soon afterwards you are steadily introduced to each different storyline and soon the book picks up more and more pace as the storylines start to alternate with the chapters and Richard Ford leaves several chapters on nice cliffhangers more than once really urging you on to read and finish this book asap. 

What does soon fall to note is that Richard Ford early on broadens the scope of the story, like I already mentioned above the synopsis is pretty straight forward and shows perhaps one direction. However there are a lot more, not only does the warlord Amon Tugha pose a threat, there is an uprising in the criminal circuit of Steelhaven and last but not least there is a great magical threat that could cause destruction of not only Steelhaven but the rest of the world as well... I was really pleased with how Richard Ford executed all these different idea's. You can clearly see that Richard Ford shows a lot of enthusiasm in writing Herald of the Storm, he shows you the ins and outs of all his idea's, but oftentimes bringing so much idea's to life in such a setting can put a drag on the story with information dumps. Luckily this isn't the case in Herald of the Storm, I think this was mostly owed to how it was done, with the multiple storyline. Here there is a clear separation in place and role and in one for example you get the complete lowdown on the criminal system and with another you learn about the magick system in Herald of the Storm. It's hard to give a short description of the story without revealing to much, so I will just jump to the most important past of the story and those are the different storylines that you follow along the way. 

Lets start with Nobul, a blacksmith going through a rough patch. This might be your typical guy just doing a job staying out of trouble, but with a past that haunts him daily. He has lost his wife to a disease that struck Steelhaven in the past and now is left alone to raise their son. Being an army veteran he wants nothing more than to forget his terrible deeds and find that putting all his effort in his blacksmithing helps him. However this focus plays a large part on his son, Nobul isn't able to connect with his son anymore and they often has fights. What does comes to show early on in Nobul's character is his that he is stricken with his deeds of the past and that he wishes daily that things never happened. This grief stricken personality, instead of coming over weak really made his character, especially with all the things happening later on in the book, he is set out with one goal. Revenge. A second one that you follow is the daugther of King Cael, Janessa, I always like it when I read fantasy with a little courtly intrigue and problems associated with it. Though the focus in the beginning is more on the other stories, Janessa's part become more pronounced when devastating news hits the streets of Steelhaven. It's seems that her task and duty has been called into action but whether it will be an easy task.. I don't think so. A third one is by magick apprentice Waylian, now I really, really enjoyed reading his part, Yes I am a sucker for magic in fantasy. Waylian had everything working for him when he was still back home, but he has been called into apprenticeship to become a wizard, but find that the task of become acquianted with magick is much harder than it seems. He is being scolded by his teacher, Gelredida, but this does seem to have ulterior motives. Waylian's part isn't solely based on showing the magick system in Herald of the Storm, but there is much bigger threat on the rise that Gelredida and by happenstance Waylian are determined to find out. What they find in their investigation is much bigger than Gelredida would have dared to guess. What I liked about Waylian's part is that his chararacter grows and develops all throughout. It feels that he wasn't taking things seriously but all of a sudden he realizes this and BAM there you have a completely new Waylian! The fourth storyline is by Kiara. Kiara is a warrior known as a Shieldmaiden of Vorenna. In an earlier task she has caused quite a scene and now is left with the consequences and has to redeem herself, she is tasked with infiltrating the criminal underground. Kiara is shown as a very confident and determined lead, this again was a big plus, what you often see is that the males tend to overpower a story but Kiara puts them nicely into place. There is also something more going on between Kiara and another characters that makes up for an interesting continuation of the story in the sequel. 

As you can probably make up from the above mentioned characters, Herald of the Storm is a strongly character driven story. What often happens when you have so many different storylines is that some elements of the story might fall into the background such as development or depth or showing the world itself, but this isn´t the case at all. Like I said before Richard Ford nicely separates the story into different parts each taking place in different locations where you learn the ins and outs of them. Only later to have several storylines collide with each other to produces an even great feeling to the whole of the story. It starts to dawn that several earlier proposed individual events now might seem to be connected with each other. 

Richard Ford shows with Herald of the Storm that he knows his grimdark fantasy in the details. This strong character driven first book kicks off a new and interesting series that a lot of fans should be eager to follow along the way. Besides the strong characters that feature in Herald of the Storm there are plenty of twists and turns along the way as well as some pretty cool fighting scenes and lets not forget when the magick hits the scene full force. Herald of the Storm is chock-full of cool stuff! The sequel, The Shattered Crown, is out next month already be sure to catch up.


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