The Gathering of the Lost: Immensely satisfying sequel

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Helen Lowe The Wall of Night 1. The Heir of NightThe Gathering of the Lost by Helen Lowe

Every Avalanche Begins with One Stone Falling…

The Gathering of the Lost is the second installment in Helen Lowe’s THE WALL OF NIGHT quartet, the first being The Heir of Night, in which we were first introduced to the story’s protagonist: Malian, the rightful heir to the House of Night, the first of the Nine Houses that garrison the mountain range known as the Wall. Malian’s people, the warlike and indomitable Derai clans, have defended the Wall of Night for generations against that which lies beyond it: the demonic Darkswarm. Though the defences have held for countless years, the Darkswarm have now breached the Wall and found their way into the world of Haarth, spreading their propensity for strife and unrest throughout each city they come across.

The previous book told of how Malian and her friend Kalan, a young man from the priesthood, managed to escape the attack of the Darkswarm and disappear out into the wilderness of a bordering country. That was five years ago, and The Gathering of the Lost opens with the two companions preparing to part ways in order to evade their enemies and learn the skills needed to combat the coming darkness.

From there the story expands in order to follow the narratives of a number of characters across several different countries. As with the first book, The Gathering of the Lost is divided into three parts (technically five and a prologue, but parts three and five contain only two chapters apiece), each with a distinctive setting, purpose and atmosphere.

In Part I, “The Festival of Masks,” we catch up with Tarathan and Jehane, two heralds who were introduced in The Heir of Night, now travelling to the wealthy and exotic city of Ij to participate in the famous Festival. Once there, they find it teeming with intrigue, rumors, plots, assassins, demonhunters, treachery — and the threat of the Darkswarm lurking at the back of it all. Soon they’re thrown into cat-and-mouse games amidst the backstreets and alleyways of the city, hoping only to escape with their lives.

Part II, “The Northern March,” takes place in a rougher and more remote setting, following the attempts of new character Carick to evade outlaws and reach Emer in order to fill his commission as a cartographer for its Lord Falk. Once safely there he starts to get to know the locals, meeting (among others) the beautiful Countess Ghiselaine and her damosels, Girvase, Hamar, Jarna and other squires-in-training, and Raven, the mysterious hedge-knight who saved Carick on the road to Emer.

It soon becomes clear that there are dark forces on the loose. When a man is found brutally murdered and the Countess goes missing, Carick joins the search party in order to track her down (and hopefully save the political alliance that depends on her marriage to the Duke of Emer). Nobody is who they seem to be in Part II, and there are more than a few twists and turns before it’s over.

After a short return to the Wall in Part III, “The Border Mark,” Part IV, “Midsummer,” returns to Malian and Kalan as they travel to Caer Argent for the great Midsummer tournament. Surrounded by friends and foes, Malian is haunted by strange dreams of the past and future, whilst Kalan strives to keep his companions safe. Joined unexpectedly by the imperious Queen Zhineve-An of Jhaine, the entire company finds itself walking on eggshells so as not to upset the delicate peace — though naturally the Darkswarm have the exact opposite intentions.

Like all good sequels, The Gathering of the Lost is bigger, longer and more complex than its predecessor, expanding on the world and its characters in order to explore just what’s at stake should Malian not complete her mission to find the lost weapons of the legendary Yorindesarinen and draw the Lost Derai priests into the struggle against the Darkswarm. Both Malian and Kalan have grown up a lot since we last saw them; here they must take care of themselves, make excruciatingly difficult decisions, and participate in adult relationships. They’ve clearly been shaped and changed by their past experiences, and throughout the course of the book each one has to make a succession of choices between their personal happiness and the duty that lies before them.

Lowe maintains a good balance between the plot’s political intrigue, action sequences, and character development. Though there are a lot of characters and places to keep track of, a glossary is included at the back of the book, as well as a beautifully rendered map that helps you keep track of where everyone is at any given time. Also notable is the diversity apparent throughout the story; it’s safe to assume that characters who herald from places called “Jhaine” and “Ishnapur” will be dark of skin, and there are a variety of female characters that hold positions of power, whether they be rulers, warriors, squires, handmaidens or healers.

Lowe keeps a handle on her extensive cast of characters and settings without losing track of the story, cleverly incorporating several twists that will make you want to re-read in order to pick up on all the clues that she has strewn throughout each chapter. It’s an immensely satisfying second installment in a series that will continue in the next book, Daughter of Blood.


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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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