Monday, 23 June 2008

‘The Twilight Herald’ – Tom Lloyd (Gollancz)


The ‘To Be Read’ pile is a wonderful thing to behold; stretching into the sky like, well… erm… a big pile of books that I haven’t read… It is a thing of beauty but also an edifice that strikes terror into the heart of the bold adventurer who must scale its heady peaks and bring back treasure for you lucky readers. One day I won’t come back, remember me?

Or…

There are books on my shelf that, for one reason or another, I haven’t got round to reading since they were given to me. You know how it is, there’s always something that you want to read first and before you know it a year has gone by and your wife is asking you if you’re ever going to read all these books you haven’t got round to… One of these books is Tom Lloyd’s ‘The Twilight Herald’, the sequel to the really rather enjoyable ‘Stormcaller’. I finally got round to it a few days ago (better late than never?) and I have to say it was pretty good…

Following the events of ‘Stormcaller’, the ‘White Eye’ Isak is now Lord of the Farlan tribe and having to deal with all the problems that this brings. Within a few pages, Isak has had to deal with an assassination attempt along with hints of rebellion waiting at home. However, before he can deal with these issues Isak’s attention is drawn towards the city of Scree and a chance for him to take his revenge on one of the architects of Lord Bahl’s downfall. It’s not just the opportunity for revenge that awaits him though. Something rotten lies at the heart of Scree, poisoning the hearts of the people and tearing the city apart. In the midst of everything else that has bought him to the city Isak is about to learn that there is nothing that lies beyond the reach of a shadow…

‘The Twilight Herald’ is a deep and involved tale brimming with politics, alliances and double-crossings (with a large cast of characters). As such, I’d say that the best way to read it is either to have read the prior instalment fairly recently or to have a copy of ‘The Stormcaller’ close to hand, just so you know ‘who’s who’ and ‘what’s what’. I came to this completely cold and, for the first couple of hundred pages at least, felt like I’d been chucked in straight at the deep end! There is a lot to set in place and you will have to be patient if you want to get to the really good stuff. To be fair though, while ‘Stormcaller’ was all about introducing the character of Isak, ‘The Twilight Herald’ is all about setting everything up for the rest of the series (which explains why there is a lot of stuff left hanging right at the end). Bear this in mind and you won’t go too far wrong.

Once I was fully acquainted with everyone I needed to know (I like Vesna and Zhia Vukotic, Styrax is pretty cool as well) it was clear that Tom Lloyd was doing all the good stuff that he had done with ‘Stormcaller’, an exciting story coupled with good solid worldbuilding. ‘The Twilight Herald’ takes a leaf out of Steven Erikson’s book by going for the ‘big spectacle effect’ and staging battles that are epic in every sense of the word. Skirmishes are all well and good but a really good battle demands either hundreds of people on each side all going at it or two mightily powerful opponents squaring off. The final climactic battles in and around Scree, as well as Styrax’s revenge for his son, serve their purpose admirably well.
While there’s loads of stuff to get your head around; Lloyd takes control of the plot really well, dovetailing and tying off strands where necessary and throwing in a little surprise right at the end which paints the whole book in a different light.
When I reviewed ‘Stormcaller’ I said that I could almost close my eyes and see what was happening on the page. In ‘The Twilight Herald’ it’s more a case of closing my eyes and feeling the heat pour off the page! Yes, the city of Scree is a hotbed in more than one way and Lloyd leaves his reader in no doubt that the temperature is rising…

‘The Twilight Herald’ is a tough one to get into but, for me, it paid off with pretty much everything that I enjoy in epic fantasy. The next instalment, ‘The Grave Thief’, is an early 2009 release and I’ll definitely be getting hold of a copy.

Eight out of Ten

2 comments:

SQT said...

This is a hard to get a hold of series in the U.S. I've been keeping my eye out for it, but no real luck. They're re-releasing Stormcaller in October, so I think that's when I'll get my chance to get started on it.

tomlloyd said...

Hi Graham,

Cheers for the review, much appreciated! Bearing in mind what you said there, now might be a good time to mention the fact that my revamped website includes catch-ups for Stormcaller and Twilight Herald - just about a page and a half each of info to hopefully remind folk such as your good self what happened in the last book and who everyone is.

On the US front, it's not been published there yet so there's a bit of a wait I'm afraid. Pyr are releasing Stormcaller October 21st I think, and have already bought the rights to book 2 so will be putting that out not long after I assume. Their plan is to catch up with the UK by the time book 4 of the quintet is published.

www.tomlloyd.co.uk