Information about Helen Lowe:
Helen Lowe is an award-winning novelist, poet, interviewer, and blogger, whose first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. Her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Helen has a second-dan black belt in the martial art aikido and represented her university at fencing. She posts regularly on her "...on Anything, Really" blog, occasionally on SF Signal, and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we.
Click here to visit the author's official website.
Information about Daughter of Blood:
A failing wall, a broken shield, and an enemy that will exploit every weakness...
Malian and Kalan have recovered two of the three legendary weapons of the Derai, but already it may be too late. The Wall of Night, fractured by centuries of blood feud and civil strife, is on the verge of falling.
Meanwhile, among Grayharbor backstreets, an orphan boy falls foul of dark forces. A daughter of the House of Blood must be married to the Earl of Night, a pawn in the web of her family’s ambition, and Kalan is caught in a political web he may not be able to escape.
While even as Malian dodges Darkswarm pursuers in her search for the Shield of Heaven, rumour whispers that it may be broken beyond repair - and she herself may be the blade the ancient enemy will drive into the heart of the Derai Alliance.
A REVIEW OF HELEN LOWE'S DAUGHTER OF BLOOD
Helen Lowe's Daughter of Blood is a superb and satisfying sequel to The Heir of Night and The Gathering of the Lost. It continues the story of Malian and Kalan in a magnificent way and surprises readers with plot twists and unexpected turns. It's traditional epic fantasy with a wonderfully fresh and exciting twist, because the author uses well-known elements in a refereshingly original way. It's an enchanting and masterfully created feast of epic greatness that is genuinely worth reading and praising.
Before I delve into analysing the contents of this novel, I'll mention that it's slightly difficult for me to avoid writing a few spoilers when I write about this novel, because I was thoroughly impressed by the story. However, I'll try to do my best to avoid writing spoilers, because there are many important scenes that benefit from not knowing too much about the events leading to them and the characters that are connected to them.
I had high expectations for Daughter of Blood, because its predecessors were excellent and enjoyable novels. I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed that it exceeded all of my expectations and I could see that it was worth waiting for. I was honestly surprised by the deep, complex and multi-layered story and almost skipped pages to find out what happens to the characters and how the events unfold (to be honest, the story was so good and captivating that I found myself losing a few hours of sleep because of it, but it was well worth it).
This novel is something special and unique among epic fantasy novels, because it has been written out of love for storytelling. When you begin to read it, you'll immediately notice that the author aims to entertain and mesmerise her readers with the powerfully unfolding story and beautiful prose.
Daughter of Blood is a fantasy novel that beckons readers to immerse themselves into a fictional and fully realised fantasy world that has its own customs, laws and political conflicts. The world of Haarth is a magnificent and complex place where different realms have conflicts with each other and where an ancient enemy is about to wreak havoc. It's a world that needs to be experienced personally in order to understand its harsh beauty and vast scope.
This novel is everything that fans of The Wall of Night series could ever hope for and more. It continues the epic story in such an amazing way that you'll be totally overwhelmed by the various events and plot twists. It's a rewarding and thoroughly satisfying reading experience. It's one of those novels that demands all of your attention and rewards you handsomely for the time you spent reading it.
By the way, if it's been a while since you've read the previous novels, I recommend taking a look at them, because you'll enjoy this novel more when the previous events are fresh in your mind. I personally re-read the previous novels before beginning to read this novel to remind myself of the happenings. It's not absolutely necessary to read the previous novels, but I do recommend reading them, because you may find yourself wondering about the different characters, magic, politics, prophecies and the history of the world.
Here's a bit of information about the story:
- In the prologue, Ilkerineth and Nuithe talk about their dead son, Nherenor, who was killed by a Derai. They have a yearning to avenge his death.
- Lady Myrathis, Myr, is the ninth and youngest child of the Earl of Blood. When her sisters refuse to marry the Earl of Night, she finds out - to her surprise - that she will be married to the Earl. Beacuse her sisters feel the House of Night is lost to the Derai Code, Myr has to become the bride.
- In Grayharbor, Faro is hired by strangers to take them to a house. One of the strangers is a Darksworn Aranraith who is looking for Nirn, a Darksworn sorcerer. Aranraith is trying to find Emuun to make him pay for his treachery, because Rhike was slain by a warrior who is immune to magic and Emuun is known to be an immune warrior. Aranraith needs Nirn back with him, because the Maelmstrom - the Swarm of Dark - is rising again.
- Nhairin travels across the barren land after what she has done and is tormented by her deeds. She suffers from the Madness and tries to flee from Nerion, Malian's mother, because she has always been able to find her.
- Kalan dreams of the heralds and Jarna whom he cared for. His bond to Malian and the debt of honour owed to the Winter Woman, Rowan Birchwood, are bringing him back to the Derai Wall. He saves a thief from being punished and meets other Derai. A bit later Kalan learns that the thief is called Faro.
- Malian is traveling carefully by using portals to make the distances between different places shorter. She tries to avoid attracting unwanted attention from the Darksworn. She is looking for the shield of Yorindesarinen, which is the missing piece of the arms of Yorindesarinen...
This is all I'll write about the story, because I don't want to reveal too much information about the happenings. If this small glimpse into the story arc whets your appetite towards this novel, I can assure that you're in for a real treat when you read the whole story from start to finish, because it features spellbinding scenes. What I mentioned here is merely the beginning, so there are many more exciting scenes to be found in this novel.
The characterisation is splendid and compelling, because the characters have their own personalities and problems. Each of the characters is a realistic and well-created person. What makes the characterisation work well is the author's ability to write about the characters' strengths, flaws, relationships and problems in an endearing and gripping way. She makes readers care about her characters (she creates an emotional bond between the readers and the characters).
The cast of characters featured in this novel is satisfyingly large and versatile. Just like in the previous novel, the author introduces new characters and deepens the already beloved characters by writing about their new adventures and choices. This is good, because the combination of new and familiar characters works excellently and keeps the story interesting.
Malian and Kalan are the fascinating protagonists of this novel. Both of them are fully fleshed characters that struggle with their own feelings and problems. It was fun and rewarding to read about their separate adventures and deeds, because the author had come up with intriguing events and surprises. They find themselves in tricky situations and have a lot to think about, because their quest involves saving the Derai Alliance from their enemies.
Malian and Kalan have grown a lot as characters as they have aged. They've gained more insight into what fighting against the Darksworn means to them and also to Haarth and its inhabitants. They're not as young and innocent as they were at the beginning of the series and they've learned many new things. They've also made new acquaintances and alliances.
Myrathis is an especially well-created character who has an important role in this novel. She's the youngest child of the Earl of Blood and the Daughter of Blood. She's considered to be a weak person and is called Lady Mouse. It was intriguing for me to read about how she reacts to the changes in her life (because her elder siblings are not at all fond of the idea of marrying the Earl of Night and find it highly offensive, it is Myr's duty to take their place as the Bride of Blood for the honour of the House of Blood demands it). The author explores Myr's life, feelings and choices in a perfect way and makes her an interesting character.
Faro is an interesting addition to the cast of characters, because he's a boy who has lived and thieved in the streets of Greyharbor. He takes a liking to Kalan and becomes his ward. By becoming Kalan's ward, he causes a few tensions between Kalan and the other Derai, because he's an outsider. In my opinion, his character brings a tiny touch of mystery to the story.
Raven, who was introduced to readers in The Gathering of the Lost, is a well-created secondary character, because he saved Malian from the wolfpack and turned out to be the leader of a Darksworn House. He has a complicated past, which Malian eventually has to take into consideration when planning things.
All of the secondary characters are intriguing and the author writes captivatingly about them. Unlike in several other fantasy novels, the secondary characters have actual roles to play in the story. They're not bystanders, but important means to advance the story and explore different events, beliefs and customs.
I enjoyed reading about Nhairin, who is the former High Steward of the Keep of Winds. I was positively surprised when the author wrote about her feelings and loneliness and how she survived in the wilderness, because her chapters brought elements of mystery and survival to the story arc.
Cher'Ryl-g-Raham of the Sea House is the navigator to the ship of the same name. She's an interesting character whom Kalan meets when he's returning to the Wall. This character's name has a fascinating background story, because it's based on a real person.
One of the things that I love about this novel is that the author dares to put the beloved protagonists to the background for a while as she introduces new characters and explores their lives. Story-wise this is very effective, because it brings plenty of depth and freshness to the novel and lets the author explore things from a new perspective. The author already used this technique in the previous novel, but now she has honed it to perfection and writes about the secondary characters in a more confident and fluent way.
The introduction of new characters also serves as an effective way to guide returning readers back to the world of Haarth. When you read about the new characters and their deeds, you'll be able to reacquaint yourself with the world and its wonders. If it's been a while since you've read the previous novel, you'll appreciate this opportunity to be led back into the familiar fantasy world.
The worldbuilding is skillful and vivid. The author's intricate and wonderfully realised fantasy world is truly a sight to behold, because different places are brought to life by detailed and nuanced descriptions of alleys, streets, houses, structures, wilderness areas etc. The author doesn't go overboard with her lush descriptions, but keeps everything fresh and interesting, which is something that not many fantasy authors are capable of achieving.
It's interesting that the author has created a world where the Derai defend the world against their ancient enemies, the Swarm of Dark. The Derai are not native to the world, but have arrived there ages ago. Their arrival had cataclysmic consequences for the world. A vast mountain range - the Wall of Night - separates the Derai from their enemies. An ancient prophecy says that if the House of Night falls, then all of the Derai will fall. Now that the story has moved forward since the beginning, it's evident that the threat of the Swarm of Dark is an even more dire and serious issue than before and the whole world is in danger.
Matters related to honour, jealousy, quarrels and rivalry have weakened the Wall of Night in many ways and the Darkswarm has gained strength. The Houses of the Derai have become weaker and now only a faint shadow of their former glory and power, and they're not able to guard the Wall as effectively as before. One of the most important reasons why this novel feels exciting and vivid is the author's ability to explore conflicts among the Derai.
What intrigues me a lot about the Derai is that they consider themselves to be good, but the truth is actually an altogether different matter. The Derai are in fact a society divided by a history of civil war and its legacy, which has greatly affected them. They may treat people who live elsewhere as outsiders or their enemies and demand respect for themselves, because they protect the people of Haarth from the Darkswarm.
The story flows beautifully and effortlessly from the prologue to the epilogue. The complexity of the story feels marvellous, because the story is well-balanced and contains different scenes that support and interlink with each other. All of the events - discussions and action scenes etc - highlight and emphasise the different aspects of the story. For example, the plot threads that connect Kalan to Myr are charmingly effective.
Helen Lowe effortlessly builds up tension as the story begins to move forward. She creates fascinating action scenes that capture the readers' hearts and minds with their frenzy and fervour. There's nothing heavy or annoying about these scenes, because they're an essential part of the story. It's great the author takes her time to build the happenings and doesn't unnecessarily rush into action, because it adds plenty of realism to the story arc. As the astonishing climax approaches, readers will be totally spellbound by the events.
The quality of the prose is outstandingly good and impressive in its lushness. Because Helen Lowe has written poetry, she has a masterful command of English language and can write beautiful and nuanced prose that reveals her love for writing. No matter what or who she writes about, she does it extremely well and uses lyrical descriptions to make the story flow better. I can say that you'll be hard-pressed to find similar kind of prose in other fantasy novels.
Helen Lowe has a talent for writing convincingly and realistically about duty, honour, friendship, loyalty and politics. She explores these difficult issues by placing her characters into situations in which they have to make decisions that may be right or wrong. Depending on how you look at things, their choices can either be good or bad. For example, she writes well about Kalan and Faro. When Kalan saves Faro, he finds himself defending the boy and explaining his actions to others. The events related to Myr are also handled admirably, because the author writes fluently about her situation and choices as she becomes caught up in her family's political machinations. Myr's marriage is a political tool for her family.
There has been plenty of magic in this series since the beginning (this is one of the reasons why I love this series so much). The author has infused her story with many kinds of magic that is an integral part of the world and magnificently enhances the atmosphere.
In this novel, magic is featured in a thrilling way. When I read this novel, I was once again mesmerised by the amount of mesmerising and mysterious magic, because I got to read about all kinds of magic ranging from the magic of the Derai to the magic of the Swarm. It was enjoyable to read about how magic works in the world, because it is infused in the story in such an impressive way that you get a feeling that the author has spent time on polishing everything that's connected to it.
Dream magic is one of the most fascinating forms of magic found in this novel. The Gate of Dreams, which is a supernatural realm between different planes of existence, has intrigued me a lot as the story has become more complex, because the workings of this realm may be chaotic and mysterious, but also surprisingly clear and easy to comprehend. What makes this realm even more captivating and mysterious is that it has its own denizens, but I won't go into details about them in order to avoid writing spoilers. I think that many readers will enjoy reading about the Gate of Dreams.
The Song of Haarth, which is the voice of the magic of Haarth, is also featured in this novel, but I won't reveal how or at which point it is mentioned in the story.
When I finished reading the story, I was surprised that I didn't find any faults in it. Everything worked perfectly and I found myself being amazed at the amount of small details and intricate storytelling. It was great how all the tiny bits and pieces came together and formed an intriguing whole, because it gave the story an epic feel.
One of the best things about Daughter of Blood is that magic, mythology and history have an important and integral role to play in the vast story arc. The author's desire and enthusiasm to write about magic, magical happenings, mythology and history is can be seen in the story. This enthusiasm manifests itself in poetic and lyrical descriptions of different events involving these things.
Daughter of Blood takes many steps forward in the overall story arc and brings the characters closer to the final confrontation with their enemies. I have to admit that I have trouble waiting for The Chaos Gate, which is the fourth and final instalment in The Wall of Night series, because I'd like to find out how the author ends the story. I'm sure that everybody who reads this novel will feel the same way when they reach the final page, because the story is so good and addictive that you can't help but wonder how things will eventually be resolved.
Although the story takes many steps forward, it also expands almost exponentially in a much larger and more remarkable way than before. I loved this, because I've always been a fan of sprawling and complex stories that evolve towards the end. Despite the almost labyrinthine structure of the story, the author keeps the plot threads tightly in her hands and guides the story towards events that will have great significance in the long run.
The ending is excellent and satisfying, and it exceeded my expectations. As much as I loved the ending of The Gathering of the Lost, it was nothing compared to this novel's ending. I won't reveal what happens at the end, but I can say that it has something to do with Malian and ancient magic.
Helen Lowe has a genuine gift for storytelling. She creates stories that resonate among many readers and lure them into a beautifully complex fantasy world filled with magic and realistic characters. In this novel, she hooks her readers with little things that grow up to mean a lot during the story arc. As they say, little things mean a lot, and that's especially true when talking about high fantasy. This novel wouldn't be as good as it if not for the little things that spice up the story and make it come alive and light up the various events.
I know that this is saying a lot, but in my honest opinion, there are many epic fantasy authors who could take lessons in writing from Helen Lowe. She is undoubtedly one of the best authors of epic fantasy ever to emerge, because she has come up with a spellbinding story that grows richer and larger and becomes increasingly complex as the story unfolds further and things are revealed to readers. Unlike in many other fantasy novels, all of the happenings in this novel serve a purpose and advance the overall story.
I think it's worth mentioning that this novel has a useful and large glossary. It can be used to check certain words and characters, if readers have forgotten them.
By the way, due to its length (700+ pages plus the glossary) and complexity, this novel benefits from re-reading. During the first read you'll love the story and the happenings, but when you re-read it, you'll truly begin to appreciate its epic scope, because you'll be able to pay attention to minor details in a whole new way. This novel is so full of details that it is actually amazing how the author has managed to write it without losing sight of what's important (I consider this to be something special, because you won't find this kind of storytelling in many contemporary fantasy novels).
As you may have guessed by this review, I was deeply impressed by Daughter of Blood and its epic story, and found it amazing. It was my kind of fantasy, because the prose was beautiful, the happenings were interesting, the characters were realistic and the story was full of fascianting and mysterious magic that intrigued me. If you enjoy these things, you will also be impressed by this novel.
Helen Lowe's Daughter of Blood may well be the best and most complex epic fantasy novel of the year. It's unlikely that any other fantasy novels will be able to surpass it in terms of scope, characterisation and worldbuilding, because the author has created an amazing story full of details.
Daughter of Blood is an immensely satisfying reading experience, because it's an enjoyable and entertaining novel with an emphasis on epic entertainment, excellent characterisation, deep worldbuilding and haunting prose. It's an outstanding achievement in captivating and lush storytelling. It deserves to be read and praised by readers who appreciate intricate storytelling.
Beautifully written, complex and spellbinding epic fantasy - highly recommended!