Monday, 10 October 2016

Review of The High King's Vengeance by Steven Poore

The High King's Vengeance by Steven Poore

This is the sequel to Heir to the North,, both being parts of Malessar's Curse. (I review HTTN here).

The tale opens in a tavern where we learn some important news via a couple of the less pleasant characters. As in HTTN, we hear of places that not everyone believes in the existence of - in this world, there are many lost layers of history, and few people know the whole story. As it happens, Norrow, Cassia's vile father, knows a good deal, and his knowledge is knowledge of coming war.

At the end of HTTN (no spoilers!) Cassia and her allies perform a kind of magical fix on the blasted northern land of Caenthell, but the fix will not hold. We meet her again, in the ruins of the magical battle that ended the first volume, picking up the shattered pieces of her life and the ruined lives of her companions.

It's hard to describe much of the action of this volume without giving spoilers about what happens in HTTN. Suffice it to say that Cassia is driven, often against her own desires and better judgement, to a terrible and final confrontation with the forces that shaped the land aeons ago and are now arising again with terrible, sorcerous power.

The gradual revelation of the High King's nature is a suitably chilling dimension to the whole story and there seems little hope most of the time of Cassia's prevailing or even surviving; she is up against forces which few in the world even know about, let alone understand. However, she gathers her companions for the march North, and deals from day to day with their lack of faith, their treachery and their desperate fear.

We see the growth in Cassia, the way she deals with her doubts - she is ill-prepared for the having the whole future of the North thrust upon her, and she has no taste at all for becoming Royalty.

We meet again some of the characters from HTTN and some new ones are introduced, particularly the Galliarcan prince Rais, who proves an excellent foil for Cassia's doubts and confusion. The plot is pacy and well-maintained - I found it unputdownable, and there is a big enough share of mysteries left for the final confrontation.

As for what happens to Cassia in the end, I won't be telling, but it fits extraordinarily well with everything that has gone so far.

Like epic fantasy? I suspect you will love this. But do read Heir to the North first. If you enjoyed HTTN, then you will enjoy this, the second and final part, even more. HTTN is a very satisfying read, from the level of plot, but this volume completed and rounds it out. Steven Poore has done it again!