Heart of Mist fills the classic fantasy epic with a cast of wonderfully gritty characters and themes relevant to the modern-day reader.
I was fortunate enough to have received an ARC of Helen Scheuerer‘s debut novel Heart of Mist, the first installment of her upcoming YA fantasy series, The Oremere Chronicles. Having read the prequel short stories available on her website for free, I had some idea of what to expect and the novel itself did not disappoint.
As founding editor of online literary magazine and publishing house Writer’s Edit, Scheuerer‘s writing always promised to be polished and succinct. One of the greatest achievements of this debut is how the prose reads like the words of a professional; the descriptions are beautiful but not overwhelming in complexity or vocabulary. There is a lightness to Scheuerer‘s writing that allows the reader to flow through the pages, unburdened by over-compensatory, superfluous descriptions. It is accessible, balanced fiction that is destined to be a favourite among readers, young and old alike.
In addition to the solid writing, Heart of Mist fills the classic fantasy epic with a cast of wonderfully gritty characters and themes relevant to the modern-day reader. In a progressive step away from the tired good-vs-evil trope, Scheuerer introduces us to an array of ‘grey’ characters, each with their own differing moral compasses and set of defining flaws. As well as smudging the lines of what it means to be a hero, Heat of Mist tackles some very relevant social issues including but not limited to feminism, sexuality and substance abuse. With the growing social conscious of today’s generation, these themes are bound to resound with Scheuerer‘s target audience.
The greatest strength of Heart of Mist and what really makes it stand out from other debuts is the depth and richness to the world. Scheuerer‘s world building is phenomenal. From belief systems to geography, politics to magic, everything has been crafted to a realistic sheen, complete with beautifully illustrated maps to be included upon the its release. The lore and history of the world are introduced carefully, with few blocks of ‘info dumps’ that can laden fantasy projects with the same complexity of world building. Overall, readers learn of the world and its ways as the plot develops, with the exception of the latter part of the first half, where we see protagonist Bleak come to understand her powers and her place in the world. Her prolonged time in the one location honing her abilities saw the pace slow, which was reflected in the temporary halt of my reading progression. However, once Bleak and companions depart, the plot really takes off and I found myself racing towards the end. Despite the wane of excitement while the plot builds, this minor shortcoming does little to detract from the novel itself and is soon forgotten as one progresses into the second half of the book.
Heart of Mist is but the second indie novel I have read and if I find more independently published works of this calibre then I certainly have some eBook shopping to do! Receiving an ARC for Heart of Mist was truly an honour and I cannot wait to get my hands on the physical copy following its impending release. There is great potential here, indeed.
Heart of Mist Book One: The Oremere Chronicles by Helen Scheuerer is available August 31 2017 from Talem Press.