I received an e-ARC of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.
No spoilers in this rapid review of Reign of Mist by Helen Scheuerer. I really liked it! I give it 4.5 stars. The first thought I posted about Reign on Goodreads was: “Guys, this is really good fantasy.” After finishing the novel, I stand by my initial thought. I was excited to be back in this world, and Scheuerer didn’t disappoint. She built on her well-developed and distinct characters; the climate, geography, and culture of her various continents; and the storylines and mysteries from book 1, Heart of Mist.
As Reign opens, Bleak finds herself in a new world after sailing off into mist at the end of Heart. She discovers the inhabitants have as much to offer as she does, but will she want to (or be able to) befriend them? Henri journeys to the winter kingdom of her childhood friend Eydis. Both women are rulers now, but has their friendship held up enough to become allies?
Swinton and Fiore are on yet another continent for their newest assignment: to watch over and protect Princess Olena as she gets acquainted with her future husband, Prince Nazuri. The prince is nothing like the men expected. Is he a good match for the innocent yet perceptive princess? And everyone’s favorite stable boy Dash ends up in dire straits. Only a drastic change can get him what he desperately needs. Is it worth the price he must pay, even if it alters the trajectory of his life?
War looms over the aforementioned characters. As we saw at the end of Heart, King Arden has joined forces with Queen Ines, so the other kingdoms must unite to have any hope of defeating their combined strength and resources. Yet Bleak and the gang soon discover it’s difficult to align with people with different backgrounds, belief systems, and loyalties, especially when everyone seems to harbor a secret.
What a set-up, right? Scheuerer has developed a lush fantasy world that I never want to leave. I was fascinated by the forests of Valia and their warrior-women leaders in Heart, but I was perhaps even more entranced by the deserts of Battalon as well as the bitterly cold, icy world of Wildenhaven, particularly its mysterious, enchanting Valley of Twisted Trees. And the means of communication Scheuerer introduced between these nations was unique and fun.
Also, I love these characters! I was going to record my favorite but realized that was too hard a task. I would need to list nearly every single main character plus a few secondary ones, too. This is a testament to how real the characters feel and how each of their struggles tug on my heartstrings. I often appreciate a desperately conflicted character most of all, though, so that might land Swinton at the top of my list. I was excited to discover I’m not the only one who loves the complex captain; when Scheuerer asked her readers which character they wanted the next novella to be about, Swinton is the one readers chose!
There hasn’t been much romance in the Mist books so far, but I haven’t even missed it. (And that’s saying something! I always enjoy the angst of a good love story whether it’s the primary or secondary part of the plot.) Scheuerer focuses on friendships instead. There are many strong female relationships, and the two new ones struck in Reign are even better than those in Heart. The primary male friendship is conflicted and full of secrets, but in the end it might just be the best of them all.
Scheuerer’s writing talent continues to blossom. Her prose is appealing, and she’s great at sprinkling hints here and there to be developed later in the story. These clues kept me guessing, and I only figured out one of the mysteries on my own. I like that none of them were too obvious, yet they made sense in retrospect. And Scheuerer’s imagination seems infinite. The magical system she created dealt me my favorite surprise of the book: a healing unlike any I’ve ever read.
This indie reads like a blockbuster and a for-sure bestseller. I certainly hope it ends up being one! If you love YA fantasy, pick up Heart of Mist now, and then grab a copy of Reign of Mist when it comes out on September 13th.
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