In the realm of Ellest a toxic and dangerous mist swarms across the land. Here, magic is forbidden, and those who practice it are disappearing. Drinking to dampen her emerging and unwanted powers, and to forget a turbulent past, nineteen year old Bleak plans to remain firmly out of the firing line. But when the King’s men set their sights on her, she finds herself caught in the middle of a battle for power between the female warriors of the Valia and the King, corrupted by a mysterious force. Bleak cannot remain hidden anymore – either she vanishes like countless others before her, or she embraces her past and her powers, and gears up for a fight.
The first in new high fantasy trilogy The Oremere Chronicles, Heart of Mist is the debut novel from Writers Edit founder Helen Scheuerer. It’s fast paced, packed with equal amounts exciting revelation and invigorating mystery, and boasts an impressive cast of characters.
It takes a certain amount of skill to tell the back story of a fantasy world without it descending into mere exposition, but Scheuerer absolutely nails it, teasingly holding out pieces of information to both character and reader, giving you just enough to make you want more. Featuring world building at its finest, the captivating realm of Ellest and its revelations and developments are as integral to the plot as any of the characters that populate it.
And speaking of the people of Ellest, carrying the story are Scheuerer’s compelling leads – Bleak, an abandoned teenager, drinking to dull a power she cannot control, and Henri, the highly disciplined Queen of the Amazonian-like Valia Kindred. A mismatched pair, united only in their forbidden magical abilities, their shifting relationship and changing dynamics are central to the progression of the plot. Two women who find their strength in very different ways, it’s refreshing to see female leads that are first pitted against each other and then build a relationship based on things unrelated to their gender and their sexuality.
These women embody Scheuerer’s key themes of loss and belonging, as they navigate the difficult paths that bring them together. Both have suffered painful losses and push people away to protect themselves and others. They each unwillingly find themselves an important part of a collective, forcing them to take accountability for their actions. Tough and talented, though frustrating and flawed, Henri and Bleak have more in common than they realise. The novel ends with them heading out on two very different adventures, and it’s a credit to Scheuerer that neither feels more important, nor more interesting, than the other.
The supporting cast are not forgotten either, with a tantalising selection of secrets and back stories divided between them. And none of it is wasted on the background – Scheuerer uses these mysteries and motivations both to flesh out her characters and to push the plot along, meaning Heart of Mist moves at a rapid and exciting pace, gearing the reader up for adventures yet to come.
In Heart of Mist, Helen Scheuerer has crafted a world as shrouded in magic and mystery as it is in deadly mist, slowly revealing a back story to both her characters and her realm that has the reader clamouring to know more. Ending on a promise of future adventure, let the countdown to book two begin!
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review.
Review originally published by The AU Review on 27/08/17