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None can resist the ravages of time. Knowledge is lost. Memories fade.
But some things must never be forgotten.
Over 400 years ago, twelve great warriors united the beleaguered armies of men and scoured the war-torn lands of evil, pushing the enemy back into the underground pits and caverns from whence they came. To ensure their legacy, each of the Twelve founded fortress monasteries to impart their unique knowledge of war and politics to a select few, the Knights of the Twelve.
But now the last of the Twelve have long since passed from history to legend and the Knights, their numbers dwindling, are harbouring a dark and terrible secret that must be protected at all costs.
Merad Reed has spent half his life guarding a great crater known as the Pit, yearning for some escape from the bleak monotony. Then the arrival of Aldarin, one of the few remaining Knights of the Twelve, sets off a chain of cataclysmic events that will change Reed forever.
To the north, Jelaïa del Arelium, heiress to the richest of the nine Baronies, must learn to navigate the swirling political currents of her father’s court if she hopes one day to take his place. But the flickering flames of ambition hide the shadow of an even greater threat.
And deep within the earth, something is stirring.
Thank you to The Write Reads and the author for providing me with an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The Broken Heart of Arelium is a relatively fast-paced fantasy adventure where monotony mutinies into more than the characters ever desired. Merad Reed, a member of the Old Guard, has served the majority of his life on the wall keeping watch over the Pit. Now middle-aged, what seemed like a great honor now feels dull and everlasting. Centuries have passed with no excitement for the Old Guard to show for it. The wall slowly continues to deteriorate and the arrival of new recruits dwindles. But then something stirs and comes forth from the Pit. Suddenly the expected trajectory of Merad’s life changes and life throughout the nine Baronies becomes endangered.
The action starts almost from the first page, during which we encounter the very beings who threaten human existence. I thought the pace slowed a bit in the middle; but this is understandable in order for the characters to teach the reader about the world in which they live. However, I read the last 40% or so of the book in one sitting. It’s action-packed and the pages host quite a few curve balls. When reading fantasy books I, more often than not, try to guess who the characters can trust. I had my suspicions about one person thanks to some subtle hints written into other characters’ reactions, but the plot twist of another blindsided me.
The dialogue is more formal than I usually read, so that took me a little time to adjust to. This type of writing made me think about the romanticization of medieval knights. Moreover, the main male characters, Merad and Aldarin, a knight of the Twelve, exude chivalry and duty, hearkening back to legends of old. Merad undergoes the most character development. He starts as a subdued defender in the Old Guard to someone who gains confidence and earns respect as he helps Arelium prepare for an inevitable invasion. I feel that the development of other characters was not as defined, though. I chalk this up to the pace and shorter book length. This book is more plot-driven than character-driven. However, the ending leaves little doubt in my mind that plenty of transformation is around the corner for everyone.
One of my favorite things about this story is the history we learn from Aldarin, as he tells it to Merad, about the original Twelve Knights and their followers, or Knights of the Twelve. The Broken Heart of Arelium definitely whetted my appetite to learn more about the original Twelve, over whom is a cloak of mystery. This is a personal preference, but I do wish there was more female character page time in this book. But it’s important to also acknowledge that this book sets the scene for the rest of the series. I have a feeling our female characters will feature more prominently later.
Lastly, the author pays careful attention to detail when describing surroundings and buildings. I don’t know much about stone construction or battle gear. That said, it seemed to me Robins did due diligence with his research. So this type of detail could thrill some and perhaps not others.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. The ending surprised me and, for that alone, I do want to continue with the series, my TBR-willing. I’m very curious about the Knights of the Twelve and the elaboration of a magic system in the next books.
Content warnings: gore, death
Reading format: Kindle e-book
About the Author
Alex Robins was born in Norwich, England back when it was still trendy to wear lycra tracksuits and bright pink headbands. Norwich School Library was where he first discovered his love of reading, an old converted undercroft packed to the rafters with books. The first fantasy series he read was The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis & Tracey Hickman, quickly followed by The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and David Eddings’ The Belgariad.
At the age of twelve Alex moved across the channel to Nantes in France. Speaking very little French, the first few years were difficult and sometimes lonely as he scrambled to get a grip on the intricate grammar and vocabulary of the French language. His taste in books branched out from epic fantasy to science-fiction, mysteries, thrillers, and historical fiction, but he always came back to his favourite fantasy authors when looking to escape the outside world.
After degrees in agronomy, project management, and computer sciences, Alex founded his own company dedicated to online voting. He met his wife during a game of badminton and they spent several years getting trounced in various regional tournaments before getting married. Alex now lives in the sunny Loire Valley in western France, surrounded by imposing castles, sprawling vineyards, and two children. After reading fantasy books for the last thirty years he decided to write one. The Broken Heart of Arelium is his first novel, and the first in the War of the Twelve series.