The Broken Heart of Arelium
The Broken Heart of Arelium
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.
The Twelve had once been the saviours of the land. Their combined might had saved the world from darkness. They had sent the evil underground, to live in the darkness below. However, the darkness was not destroyed and the war scarred the land, leaving six pits that need to be watched over. Thus was born The old Guard. A group of soldiers sworn to protect the lands from the dark and stand guard the pit.
Merad Reed’s life is filled with monotony and routine. He secretly wishes that something will happen so that he can be released from his life of boredom. However, he soon wishes that he had kept those thoughts to himself. When one night seems much the same as the other. An evil belived disappeared emerges from the pit and a screaming horde of Greylings kills all that he holds dear.
As he fights to save himself and those around him from the monstrous beasts that live in the caverns below the lands, aid will come from an unlikely source. From a knight of The Twelve.
With the aid of Aldarin, they defeat the foul host.
But this is just the beginning. More of the creatures have amassed and are making their way to Arelium.
Meanwhile in Arelium, the Baron & his family are unaware of the threat that looms at the edge of their lands. Can they fight off the Greylings. Can they defeat the monsters that drive the Greylings. Can they defeat legends made flesh and save the people of Arelium.
I have to say right from the start that this book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. There were some elements that I really liked, and there were others that I just did not get along with.
Now the book has some really good ideas in it. In places, it is quite dark. There is plenty of political intrigue, and there were parts of the plot that kept me intrigued enough to continue reading it. On the whole, I quite liked the main characters. The friendship between Reed and the knight of the Twelve, Aldarin hit that chord that kept me wanting to find out more and see how the relationship developed (although, at times Alderin really annoyed the snot out of me!). There were other parts too. I always like a good training montage and the one with with Reed and Ferris attempting to teach a group of raw recruits how to maintain a spear wall with the use of a traditional (in the book traditional) folk song so that it gives the recruits some semblance of professional soldiership.
In addition to this, Alex Robins writes some really good action scenes. They flow really well and he gives you just enough description without the reader becoming confused at the action on the page.
I also wanted to know more about the Knights of the Twelve. They were a really good aspect of the story.
Like I said there are some really good ideas in here, but unfortunately, for me they were marred by the things that I didn’t like.
At times, I had a bit of a hard time with the dialogue. There were many times that I felt that it just did not flow, and on top of that there were instances where it was just too flowery for me, resulting in it getting in the way of the actual story. On top of this, characters went into what I felt was quite unnecessarily eloquent and verbose speeches, which for me, resulted in it detracting from the narrative itself.
Another aspect that I felt didn't work was when characters engaged in large sections of dialogue exposition, which again, took me away from the story itself. One instance of this that really jumped out at me was when a badly injured character gave a long and wordy explanation of events.
In terms of characterisation, I had a little bit of a hard time connecting with quite a lot of the characters. Reed, without a doubt is the one that stood out, the others, I just didn’t get that attachment to them. Which was a shame, because I wanted to get that emotional attachment to the characters, but it just wasn’t happening.
I mean, I don’t mind not liking characters, but I need them to have substance, and I feel that this was what I had problems with. I just could not find the depth in them which resulted in me feeling like an observer rather than becoming immersed with the story.
And whilst I have pointed out some of the things that I did not gel with, there was lots in the book to like. The Greylings themselves were quite good antagonists, especially when they are being pushed by the Threshers, who are giant beasts that carry large whips to push their troops into battle.
The intrigue aspect of the story was enough to keep me guessing and provided a conduit for that investment of concentration and time.
And then there is the end!
Now I know that some reviewers felt that it was a bit too leftfield for them and that it seems to come out of nowhere, with little transmission of plot points that leads to quite a surprising ending.
However, I have to say that I quite liked the ending. It gave the book some necessary focus and also provided a good opportunity to expand the world and political standpoints that govern it. I felt it gives the second of the books a different direction to go in and adds some depth to the story as a whole.
On the whole, The Broken Heart of Arelium was a good book. However, for me there were a number of things that put up barriers to getting wholly immersed in it and elevate it to reach the potential that is obviously there.