Helen Lowe's official website can be found here.
Here's the description of The Heir of Night from the back cover of the Advance Readers Edition:
IF NIGHT FALLS, ALL FALL...
In the far north of the world of Haarth lies the bitter mountain range known as the Wall of Night. Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the Wall is the final bastion between the peoples of Haarth and the Swarm of Dark – which the Derai have been fighting across worlds and time.
Malian, Heir to the House of Night, knows the history of her people: the unending war with the Darkswarm; the legendary heroes, blazing with long-lost power; the internal strife that has fractured the Derai's former strength. But now the Darkswarm is rising again, and Malian's destiny as Heir of Night is bound inextricably to both ancient legend and any future the Derai – or Haarth – may have.
And here's the review:
A REVIEW OF HELEN LOWE'S THE HEIR OF NIGHT
I recently read Helen Lowe's wonderful debut book, Thornspell, and now I had a chance to read the Advance Readers Edition of her second book, The Heir of Night. The Heir of Night is different from Thornspell, but it's just as good and interesting as Thornspell. Thornspell is a young adult fantasy book (a retelling of Sleeping Beauty), but The Heir of Night is a dark and complex book for adults.
The Heir of Night is traditional fantasy, but it's excellent traditional fantasy. Helen Lowe's prose flows effortlessly from the first pages to the last page and she uses magic in a good way.
Before I say anything else about The Heir of Night, I'll say a few words about traditional fantasy, because these things must be said:
Traditional fantasy is often regarded as childish and/or clichéd fantasy, because most new fantasy books are totally different from traditional in almost every possible way (several new fantasy books tend to be brutally realistic and violent and they contain only small doses of magic). In my opinion traditional fantasy shouldn't be overlooked, because there are writers who are capable of writing good and enjoyable books. I know that some readers are fed up with traditional fantasy, but everybody should remember that there would be no modern fantasy without traditional fantasy, because traditional fantasy is the cornerstone of fantasy literature. I also know that there are lots of bad and boring books out there, but not all books are bad, because certain books are worth reading.
Helen Lowe is a good writer who knows how to write traditional epic fantasy, so The Heir of Night is worth reading. Everybody who has read lots of fantasy will easily notice that Helen Lowe's writing style sets her apart from several other writers, because her prose flows beautifully and poetically from chapter to chapter. It's refreshing to read this kind of stories, because good writing is an essential part of fantasy literature.
Here's some information about The Heir of Night:
The world is called Haarth and it's divided into different parts. Haarth has a dark and bloody history and what's happened in the past affects the future. Because of the dark past the society is divided by fear and suspicion.
In the north, the House of Night stands against the forces of darkess, which threaten the world of Haarth. The House of Night is one of the nine Derai Houses, which guard the Shield-wall of Night. Their job is to keep the forces of darkness – the Darkswarm – behind the Wall of Night. It is said that the Derai have come from the stars and have fought the Darkswarm for ages.
This book contains a versatile cast of characters. I enjoyed reading about different characters and their traits.
Malian of the House of Night is an interesting and belieavable character, who suddenly finds out that she's in the middle of everything that's going on. She's an Heir to the House of Night and she has a destiny to become a champion. She suddenly notices that the fate of the divided world rests in her hands. She has lots of things to learn and she must learn who to trust and who not to trust.
Kalan of the House of Blood is also an interesting character, because he's a young man who has old powers. He has been sent to the priests because of his powers (people with powers are put into the care of priests and aren't allowed to live elsewhere). He knows many things about prophecies.
Other characters – Haimyr, Nhairin, Asantir, the Earl of Night etc – are also fascinating and well written characters.
In the beginning of the book an attack against the House of Night sets things in motion. Malian and Kalan flee into the Old Keep, which has been shunned for ages, because people think it's a haunted place. Their lives are forever changed when they enter further into the Old Keep. They learn about ancient secrets and old magic and suddenly nothing is the same anymore...
This powerful start is a prelude for things to come.
The worlbuilding in The Heir of Night is clearly a cut above what is currently the norm in mainstream fantasy, because Helen Lowe's descriptions are detailed and beautiful. She writes fluently about different places, people, history and other things. In other words, she creates a detailed fantasy world with her words and lets the reader immerse himself/herself in the rich fantasy world. This is one of the reasons why she's a much better writer than several other new fantasy writers.
The Heir of Night is a book filled with ancient magic, conflicts, sword fights, secrets, surprises, treachery and several other things which will be of interest to fantasy readers. It's surprising that Helen Lowe has added so many different elements into her second book, because several other writers would've included only some simple elements (she has lots of ambition). She builds up and releases tension brilliantly, which is a difficult thing to do. The events flow easily from scene to scene, because the storyline is strong.
I like the way Helen Lowe writes about political things and loyalties of the characters. These things are handled well in this book. Helen Lowe also writes skillfully about how her characters act in certain situations, what makes them do the things they do and how they feel about different kind of things. The conversations between characters are interesting and there's even a bit of humour in some conversations (several things are explained and explored through conversations).
This book has a good map of the world and also a comprehensive glossary of names, places and terms. The map looks very good, because it's beautifully illustrated. The atmospheric cover art by Greg Bridges also looks beautiful.
Earlier I wrote that Helen Lowe uses magic in a good way, so here's more information about magic:
This book contains interesting magic. I enjoyed reading about dreamwalking and things related to the golden fire. The golden fire is a brilliant invention, because it's a mystical thing, which offers help to people during their time of need. The old powers are fascinating magic powers, because many people have forgotten the importance of them and now it looks like they have to pay the price for their ignorance and negligence.
I think it's possible that some readers will try to compare The Wall of Night series to George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, because both series have a huge wall in the northern part of the world (Martin has a huge wall of ice and Lowe has a huge mountain range), so I have to write a few words about this subject. In my opinion this comparison is unnecessary and unfair to both series, because Lowe's series is totally different from Martin's series. I hope that people won't try to compare these two series.
As I already mentioned, The Heir of Night is the first book of The Wall of Night series. It introduces the places and characters to the readers. It also establishes a solid foundation for the forthcoming books, so there's a lot to look forward to. The second book, The Gathering of the Lost, will be published later.
Robin Hobb has already praised The Heir of Night by saying: "The Heir of Night by Helen Lowe is a richly told tale of strange magic, dark treachery and conflicting loyalties, set in a well realized world." I agree with her, because The Heir of Night is a richly told fantasy book and it deserves praise. I've read several traditional fantasy books, so I can say that The Heir of Night is a good book.
I enjoyed reading The Heir of Night and I'm looking forward to reading the second book, because it seems that Helen Lowe has a lot to offer to the fantasy genre. I've always liked this kind of well-thought traditional epic fantasy and I always will – just as long as there are good writers like Helen Lowe.
The Heir of Night is an excellent classic fantasy book for fantasy readers. I'm sure that fans of dark, epic and well written fantasy stories will love this book.