Welcome to Steelhaven, the city of strength and prosperity on the south cost of the kingdom. King Cael has united the free cities under his rule and Steelhaven has undergone a golden age, but a shadow lingers over the city in the form of the dread Elharim warlord, Amon Tugha. Amon Tugha’s herald infiltrate’s the city and is looking to destroy the kingdom from within through the criminal underworld. Steelhaven will bleed and the time of war is at hand.
Herald of the Storm takes place in almost entirely in Steelhaven which can be considered a character itself. We are introduced to all of the cities factions, guilds, criminals, and even the royalty throughout the story. The city is described as a very real, gritty place to live and builds on the atmospheric feel with each chapter. Although the plot is pretty simple, R. S. Ford does a great job of building the world through his characters and the choices they make. We follow throughout the story: a princess, a street urchin, an apprentice magician, a warrior maiden, a criminal rogue, an ex soldier, and an assassin. Each character has their own distinctive voice and desires for the plot to move forward with some well timed twists along the way. Many of the characters have cross over interactions and the tension will only build until the finale.
Although Steelhaven is a great atmospheric fantasy story, it is not without some shortcomings. The first seven chapters of the story are written with different POV characters and this may be off-putting to some readers. Some of the characters will not be enjoyed by everyone, but I looked at it as the author diversifying his character repertoire and her does it very well. My favorite character in this book is the assassin River not only because of his secret missions and members of his guild, but due to his intelligence and desire for a better life. River may just fins this when he comes across the royal family. Herald of the Storm in many ways reads and feels like a setup for the rest of the series which expands beyond the walls of the fortified city. Magic, war, vengeance, pride, and betrayals are major themes in this series and you will not want to miss it.
R. S. Ford has created a city in Steelhaven that has taken on a life if its own. Mark Lawrence in his review of this book says that the closest comparison he can give is Malice by John Gwynne. The characters are diverse, strong, and spirited enough to stand on their own and this is one under the radar novel worth adding to your TBR.