On the run from power mad King Arden and his armies, the unlikely companions of Heart of Mist find themselves scattered across the realms. Bleak has sailed through the mist in search of the mysterious land of Oremere; Henri has fled to the wintry landscape of Havennesse, hoping to secure allies; Swinton and Fi have made their way to Battalon, to watch over the Princess Olena and gain the confidence of her fiance, Prince Nazuri; and young stable boy Dash remains in Heathton, where a dangerous plague threatens the lives of magic folk. The scene is set. Let battle commence.
Reign of Mist barrels along at a much faster pace than its Amazon-best-seller predecessor. One or two new faces enter the ring, including the outrageously fierce Havennesse ruler Queen Eydis. But, for the most part, author Helen Scheuerer is happy to let her leads run the show, in an exciting story that focuses heavily on character development and wonderfully realised action scenes.
Swinton and Dash benefit the most from Reign of Mist, morphing from interesting side characters into fully fledged leads, each with heart breaking back stories and long hidden secrets that eventually merge together. Swinton, in particular, comes to the fore, revealed as a tortured soul who has repressed much of himself to both curry favour with King Arden and keep his own past safely buried. Though action packed and with its fair share of violence, Reign of Mist is a book of feels, and I definitely walked away more than a little emotionally bruised.
I suppose the real question when reviewing a sequel is whether or not you’ll benefit from having read the first. In the case of Reign of Mist, I’d say that was a resounding yes. Partially because it’s important we support hard working indie authors, but also because the characters undergo such wonderful changes and development that an understanding of where they’ve come from can only heighten the experience. This is particularly true of Bleak, who remains the main focus of the story. Her battle with alcohol addiction, used to repress her incredible powers, hovers over much of her experiences, seeing her shift from a messy, desperate drunk, to a reserved and controlled young woman, still tempted but unwilling to let herself slip back into old habits. Her fight isn’t over, of course, but her journey from Heart of Mist to the finale of Reign of Mist is certainly worth taking.
And, speaking of that finale, Scheuerer builds bit by bit to a final battle we all see coming, rewarding us with a clash of armies that is brilliantly paced and set in the stunningly realised snowy mountains of Havannesse. No punches are pulled as readers head towards the last few pages, where a monumental cliffhanger awaits, ready to make the year long wait for the next book particularly painful.
Fierce and fast paced, Reign of Mist really ups the ante, making it a more than worthy follow up to the first of the Oremere Chronicles. And, if author Helen Scheuerer’s Instagram stories are anything to go by, the third and final part of this outstanding fantasy series will be just as strong, and probably even more emotionally fraught. With a focus on well rounded (and not just strong) female characters, and vibrant and inventive world building, it’s well worth setting aside the big names in YA fantasy and taking a chance on Bleak, Henri, and the gang. After all, who doesn’t want to feel a little smug and be able to say “I was there first!”?
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review.
Review originally published by The AU Review on 11/09/18