I loved Poore’s Heir to the North – see my review here. And my firm advice would be that if you haven’t yet had the pleasure and you are all set to tuck into The High King’s Vengeance, don’t do so until you have read the first book. As this book immediately picks up the story, you’ll probably flounder in the opening chapters.
“I am the Heir to the North.”
Malessar’s Curse is broken, the wards around Caenthell destroyed. The Warlock himself lies, exhausted and gravely wounded, in the rubble of his own house. And while the dire spirits trapped behind the wards for centuries are unleashed into the world once more, Cassia is confined to a cell deep in Galliarca’s grand palace. Yet Caenthell calls to her, and Cassia must answer. As Heir to the North, the throne and the power behind it belong to her. But the twisted hunger of Caenthell’s spirits appals her and Cassia vows to do everything she can to defeat them.
This epic fantasy tale is a gripping read – particularly if you have already fallen in love with Cassia. She is now swept up in the terrifying consequences of her own actions, having been systematically deceived and used as a pawn by one of those lantern-jawed heroes that tend to people these stories. I think Poore has masterfully written a protagonist in the grip of a magical curse, by his depiction of her effect on those around her. As ever, Poore takes the genre conventions and flips them around – Cassia Cats-Paw is what Craw the dragon calls her. Once her part in the story is done – unleashing the dreadful curse – she is supposed to be so overwhelmed by the drumming in her head that she either goes mad, or joins the High King’s evil quest in conquering the world. The novel is about her struggle to avoid either fate… and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if she would succeed.
There is also an enjoyable cast of well-drawn characters that I also really cared about – the debonair Prince Rais, who accompanies her throughout her adventures, a complete misfit amongst the band of hard-bitten, weary ex-warriors who also feel compelled to join this desperate quest. I also very much liked the dynamic in which characters who I loathed in the first book were revisited and came across as less vile.
The catch with writing a story powered by a final confrontation is that said battle needs to be sufficiently spectacular to provide a satisfactory conclusion for a reader who has devoured the previous 448 pages to get to this point. Fortunately, Poore triumphantly succeeds in providing a cracking ending to this accomplished duology. If you are a fan of epic fantasy – or even if you’re a bit jaded and fed up with the genre – this one is highly recommended.