The Heir to the North by Steven Poore
“Caenthell will stay buried, and the North will not rise again until I freely offer my sword to a true descendant of the High Kings—or until one takes it from my dying hands!”
With this curse, the Warlock Malessar destroyed Caenthell. The bloodline of the High Kings disappeared and the kingdom faded into dark legend until even stories of the deed lost their power. But now there is an Heir to the North.
Cassia hopes to make her reputation as a storyteller by witnessing a hardened soldier and a heroic princeling defeat Malessar and his foul curse. But neither of her companions are exactly as they appear, and the truth lies deep within stories that have been buried for centuries.
As Cassia learns secrets both soldier and warlock have kept hidden since the fall of Caenthell, she discovers she can no longer merely bear witness. Cassia must become part of the story; she must choose a side and join the battle.
The North will rise again.
It feels like it has been an absolute age since I’ve read any epic fantasy. I decided to remedy this oversight by checking out The Heir to the North by Steven Poore.
Cassia is an engaging heroine. Still young and unsure of her place in the world, she questions everything. Her inquisitiveness is infectious. It makes perfect sense that a novice storyteller would be like this. She understands the importance of the storyteller in maintaining an oral history within society. Cassia is just beginning her journey and she longs to be a better teller of tales than her disreputable father, Norrow. Though he has some skill, he can certainly hold an audience’s attention, Norrow is lazy and more often than not drinks any of their profits.
When Cassia unexpectedly finds herself in the company of a grizzled warrior called Baum and the stoic lord Meredith, she finally gets the opportunity to flex her storytelling muscles. Will she get the opportunity to become a great bard or are her new found allies not quite all that they seem?
I was under the impression that The Heir to the North was going to be relatively traditional and it is up to a point, but there is a wonderful moment where the narrative takes an unexpected turn and we’re suddenly in unexplored territory. I’ll avoid spoilers, it would ruin the surprise, suffice to say that any event can be observed from many viewpoints. That’s the thing I like most about this novel, the way that Poore takes the opportunity to explore how differing perspectives of events drive character’s actions.
Like all the best fantasy, there are plethora of exotic locations, from the mountains and valleys of Caenthell in the far North, to the bustling cities of the Empire to the south. Cassia even spends some time on the high seas. Her many travels help shape her view of the world, and in turn the stories that she is destined to weave.
If you are looking for a story with plenty of twists and turns, ancient curses, magic aplenty, a dash of politics, ghost armies and a mildly sarcastic dragon, then look no further. This is a proper traditional epic fantasy with a refreshingly modern twist. I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of this author’s work. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing where the second part of this tale is going to take us.
The Heir to the North is published by Kristell Ink and is available now. A sequel is due in the future.