I received an e-ARC of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.
No spoilers in this rapid review of Heart of Mist by Helen Scheuerer. I give it 4.5 stars. I have read many good novels by debut authors recently, but Heart of Mist is easily the best one. In fact, it’s the best series opener I’ve read by any author in quite some time. It does what any great initial book needs to do: introduces complex characters, builds an intriguing world, and provides many mysteries, some solved in this book and some to be solved later in the series. And Scheuerer’s prose is clean and beautiful, providing the perfect level of description to build her world without overdoing it.
The tale centers on Bleak, who is known as an orphan girl and gutter rat to those living in the seaside village of Angove. Her fairly constant world changes abruptly when the king sends his top man, Commander Swinton, to capture her. Bleak is afraid King Arden wants to question her about the one thing she has always tried to hide, her Ashai (magical) power.
Their trip to the capital city of Heathton to face the king is a perilous one, and they encounter interesting people along the way. Bleak learns about herself and her power as they travel, especially when she encounters the Valian women and their leaders Henri and Allehra. Then the one person from Bleak’s past who might still care comes looking for her. So many things are working against Bleak’s quest to live independently and keep her secret hidden, and she’s not the only one with secrets. Not by a long shot.
While King Arden appears to be a worthy adversary, the mist advancing on the various kingdoms seems just as dangerous. It gave me Game of Thrones/White Walker vibes because these rulers are often bickering among themselves while a mythical force threatens them all. Most citizens don’t understand its cause or purpose, but will they eventually be forced to unite to attempt to conquer it?
I liked all the main characters for different reasons, even the ones I don’t think I was necessarily supposed to root for (I’m talking about you, Commander Swinton). 😉 Bleak, Swinton, Henri, and Dash, King Arden’s daughter’s best friend, each had a distinct voice and faced unique challenges. And two supporting characters, Fiore and Bren, really stood out to me. Their instinct to try to protect Bleak was admirable.
I fell in love with the world Scheuerer has built, particularly the Valian society. It’s made up almost exclusively of women, especially the warriors and rulers, and most of the Valian people live in the trees. The code they live by and the beauty they live among is captivating.
I definitely recommend Heart of Mist to all YA fans, especially those who love high fantasy. The characters’ interweaving tales, the fighting among various rulers, and the magical forces at play are classic fantasy. And I mean this in the best way possible as this is my favorite genre. I’m already looking forward to book two in The Oremere Chronicles! I haven’t mentioned the word Oremere until now, have I? Only a few people in Bleak’s world know what it means. Read Heart of Mist when it comes out on August 31st to discover it for yourself. The answer is fascinating!
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