11 October, 2011

Review - Heaven's Needle by Liane Merciel (Ithelas 2)

Sequels can be quite the mixed bag. Some show the author is here to stay, while others prove them to be more a one hit wonder. Sometimes sequels, however, are even better than the original; Deadhouse Gates, The Elfstones of Shannara, X-Men 2, etc. I'm happy to report that Heaven's Needle [US] [UK] [Kindle] falls into this latter category as well.
The mountain fortress of Duradh Mal was mysteriously destroyed centuries ago. And now, in its shadow, evil stirs. . . .

Unaware of the danger, two inexperienced Illuminers set out for the village of Carden Vale, at the foot of Duradh Mal, to minister to the people. The warrior Asharre, her face scarred with runes, her heart scarred by loss, is assigned to protect the young clerics. But in Carden Vale they find unspeakable horrors—the first hint of a terrifying ghost story come true.

The Sun Knight Kelland has been set free by the woman he loves, the archer Bitharn, but at the cost of undertaking a mission only he can fulfill. Joined by a Thornlord steeped in the magic of pain, they too make their way to Duradh Mal. There lies the truth behind the rumors of the dead come back to life, flesh ripped from bones, and creatures destroying themselves in a violent frenzy. And if Kelland cannot contain the black magic that has been unleashed after six hundred years, an entire world will fall victim to a Mad God’s malevolent plague. . . .

Heaven's Needle is the second novel of Ithelas, following the extremely well-done debut, The River Kings' Road. As you'll notice from the blurbage above, there's a distinct lack of some of the main characters from River Kings', Brys Tarnell (great name btw) and Odosse. Instead, the story focuses on Bitharn and Kelland and some new characters who will more than win you over.

While we're on that note, I think it was a great move on Merciel's part to change the focus a bit in this novel. Brys and Odosse had their time and I really think their story was over, at least for now, and this new focus really worked.

Just when Bitharn and Kelland were really realizing their love for each other, Kelland is taken away from her, to the dungeons of the Thorns. This is as tragic as it gets and even though Bitharn has certain responsibilities as a Celestian, she realizes the true purposes behind all the rules and laws, thus opting to follow the spirit of the law instead.

We also get a look at some other players in the game, and really only glimpses into the dangerous games they're playing. As I mentioned in my review for River Kings', Merciel has created a magic system that is completely dependent on religion. Only those anointed to a certain calling can utilize magic in their name, be they Celestians or Thorns.

In Heaven's Needle, not only does a new evil enter the struggle, but these other players attempt to use magic on their own, without the blessing of the gods, thus welcoming all sorts of new problems.

There was more questing going on in Heaven's Needle than in the first book, but while Merciel could focus on the travelogue, she focuses instead on the emotional struggles of the characters. They quest, but the book isn't about the quest so much, and I'm glad the book wasn't padded to do so. While running the risk of a few spoilers, Merciel also created some amazing monsters that really creeped me out, but had me running back for more.

Merciel really focuses on some very human themes in this book that had me doing a lot of introspection myself. We all have principles we hold dear in our lives and Merciel shows how easy it is to give up what is you one step at a time. It doesn't happen all at once, but the more you allow to happen that goes against what you believe in, the sooner you'll find that you've completely given up.

Why Read Heaven's Needle?

All in all, this is a great series, that has only gotten better. I was doing everything I could to find time to read Heaven's Needle and that's always a good sign. I can't wait for more from Liane Merciel.

4.5 out of 5 Stars


Mihir said...

Hey Bryce

Nice review, I'm glad to see Heaven's Needle worked for you as well. Unfortunately it seems that this series will also be left to the vagaries of Fortune. Liane revealed on an SFFWorld thread that she has not been picked up for book 3 by her publisher.

So unfortunately this is another great series which will now be incomplete. Unless she decides to self-pub it, we might never know what was the thing sought by the Thorns.

Bryce L. said...

No way. Shows how out of the loop I man. Thanks for the info, but that seriously ruins my day. I was so excited for the next one. Poop.