“The High King’s Vengeance”, is the second and last book in Steven Poore’s Heir to the North series. Both books in the series received a four-star rating from me, and this is one of the books I felt may even be closer to five stars; a coveted rating from me. You can find my review of the first book also posted on this site if you are interested. For those who enjoy deep, immersive and expansive fantasy books, I think you will find this book one you will want to pick up. Unlike many others in the genre, this book has a strong and ever maturing female main character. It is really a two-part coming of age story of a young woman who was the daughter of a story teller later to discover that she is the heir to the norther kingdom. Like the first book, this one also is quite large at 470 pages in digital format and 17.5 hours in audiobook format. The audiobook was well narrated by Dana Croft who also narrated the first in the series. I’m one who enjoys consistency with series narration.
One of the phrases that resonated with me in this book was when the main character said something to the affect that she was no longer the storyteller, but now the story itself. Throughout her journey, she knew that generations of people would retell and hear of her actions and outcomes. Very powerful and profound and I liked that the author pointed me back to the characters roots of storytelling. I liked how one could see the growth of the main character as she became aware of things herself. At times it was quite moving and at others time you felt the awkwardness she felt. One of my criticisms would be the use of profanity and some of the dialogue felt too native to our time than I would suspect used in a fantasy world. Finding or using made up words for expletives would have been preferred and felt more to character than modern slang.
I quite enjoyed the constant feeling and reference to the unknown powerful evil force that taunts our heroine from the first page of the book to its last. It seemed more like an impossible mission like those who set out in the Lord of the Rings series to destroy the ring. They had to overcome so much disbelief, magic and forces that it seemed impossible and so do our characters. As one would expect from books in this genre, this one also had magic, fighters, rogues, wizards, and of course dragons. Not only do we have many of the same characters from the first book continuing with our main character, but we are introduced to a number of new ones as well. If asked, I would describe this book as a complex but epic coming of age adventure. Not only do we have a number of sword and sorcery use, but we are also introduced to an army of stone solders. Much of the second book the about not only growing an army to defeat the foe, but also the growth of our main character as well. The author did a good job of balancing these aspects. There was also a feeling of doom and gloom overhanging our cast of characters as they pressed forward on their journey.
Turning to the audiobook’s narration, Dana Croft did an exceptional job with this rather long book. I do not recall any issues with the audio itself nor her narration. She was able to voice the many characters quite well and did a good job adding inflection where needed. For me, her European accent made the book more enjoyable and believable. It was also nice having a female narrate this book as the main character is a woman. On an unrelated note, I want to say that I also liked the cover art for the audiobook as it gave me a visual of our two main characters. Good job.
For parents and younger readers, this book contains a few uses of profanity. There are also a few places where crude and sexual content is discussed. The sexual aspects are more for scenes of romance than simply for shock value, but they are still present. A few scenes of graphic violence may be inappropriate for younger audiences; but nothing unexpected from a fantasy book.
In summary, I would recommend this book to someone that enjoys deeper and more traditional fantasy books. There are enough unique aspects setting it apart from the standard fantasy genre; which is a good thing. Make sure you reserve time to listen to this book as it is not one of those you can follow while half listening. If you have picked up and listed to the first book, grabbing the second to complete the series is not a question.
Disclaimer: I was voluntarily provided this review copy audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator.