The Heir of Night by Helen Lowen

The Heir of Night by Helen Lowen | Harper Voyager, 2010

Helen Lowen’s Wall of Night series was recommended by Courtney Schafer here as a series that improves after book one. Having read the first book of that series, Heir of Night, I’m excited to see if that truly is the case. Malian, the heir of Night, is set to inherit her father’s title and take over the long watch for the Darkswarm; the abominations that her people are pledged to fight against. Before she can even dream of ascending however it is revealed that the Darkswarm is rousing and the time of ancient prophecy, a prophecy in which Malian will play a key part, is at hand. What is so fascinating about The Heir of Night is how much the familiar elements are used in counterpoint to what is an original and interesting world. There are element of The Heir of Night that are strictly borrowed from science fiction and while couched in terms of the fantastic there is the general feeling that this is a novel of the far future and an alien world more than a typical secondary world fantasy tale.

Unfortunately, while Lowen introduces a fascinating setting with a rich history the overarching plot doesn’t quite rise to the richness of its surroundings. That doesn’t make it bad a bad book by any means but the familiarity of the plot keeps it from being a great book. However, given how I was introduced to the series I’m confident that things are going to change going forward. Lowen does an excellent job with the characters particularly the lead characters Malian and Kalan. While several years apart both characters a still rather young but exhibit a maturity born of their circumstances. Malian, as the heir to a powerful house shows a deep understanding of duty and responsibility that wars with her youthful desire for freedom and companionship. Kalan, a student in the order that studies magic, shows competence and knowledge balanced by a youthful desire to shirk responsibility. Each occasionally feels a bit older than their years but I felt this was more a function of the world in which they live than anything else.

Given the prominence of Night in the title there is a fair amount of darkness to Lowen’s tale both in the history of the world and in the plot itself. The harshness of Malians world, of the House of Night itself, is a function of the dark deeds of the past wherein the people of present are paying for the crimes of the past both recent and ancient. The Heir of Night is at its best when it leans on the weirdness of the setting. The somewhat trippy journey into a nether realm of dreams seen several times in the novel calls to mind past works of sword and sorcery and feels like something you might see in an issue of Weird Tales. The Heir of Night marks the beginning of an interesting series that many fantasy fans may have overlooked. I’m excited to see where things go next and to explore deeper into the vibrant world that Lowen has created.

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