Cover Image: The Heron Kings

The Heron Kings

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War stories are often told from the perspective of those fighting the war, whether it be the soldiers or leaders. The Heron Kings, however, take the perspective of the common folk trying to get by, not taking either side in the war. Alessia, a young healer, meets Ulnoth, a farmer, and together they start a group called the Heron Kings. They take in the sick, injured, and displaced people. Together, they uncover a conspiracy plot and take matters into their own hands and attempt to end the war.

The concept of The Heron Kings I loved. There are so many stories to be told, and not all stories are about heroes and villains. Sometimes, it's just normal people trying to live their lives and escape the horrors of war. It was extremely well-written and fast-paced. Not once did I feel bored by the plot.

However, there were quite a few things I took issue with in this book. The biggest problem was the flat, boring, predictable characters. When more characters were introduced, they all blurred together and I couldn't keep track of them all. I did not care about the characters or their motivations. And take this the right way, I was probably not the target audience for this book (although I thought I was when I picked it up), this book is way too violent. I don't mind violence; I play violent video games all the time. But it was brutal just to be brutal. Ulnoth was a blood-thirsty farmer, who maimed a few people. A general killed a pregnant woman by cutting open her stomach and letting her bleed out. It was far too graphic for me to the point where it made me feel ill reading all the gory details. War is brutal, it's not pleasant, I understand that. It was just too much for me.

I have to give this book a 2 out of 5. I was just uncomfortable with read this book and I really couldn't connect to the characters at all. Again, I am likely not the target audience, others have enjoyed it, it just wasn't for me.
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Okay, can i just say how much i actually liked this book? The main character is a strong woman and I absolutely loved reading about her adventures so to call it and the whole conspiracy thing that happened. I actually don't have much to say bit i really need to read more. I still can't believe how much i liked this. The writing is 👌
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’After a warlord slaughters her patients, Sister Alessia quits the cloister and strikes out on her own to heal the victims of a brutal dynastic conflict. Her roaming forest camp unwittingly becomes the center of a vengeful peasant insurgency, raiding the forces of both sides to survive.’

If you’re looking for epic fantasy action and adventure novel with strong female characters, then I highly recommend reading THE HERON KINGS.
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The Heron Kings is a story of a bunch of underdogs who refuse to bend to the circumstances forced upon them by the greedy and tyrannical nobility. Alessia, a surprisingly foul-mouthed nun is caught up in the war between two wannabe rulers. 

Caught between her need to heal people and to not get involved with either side, she unwittingly gives hope to a bunch of peasants and common people to fight against the nobles that oppress them. She becomes the leader of a covert insurgent group named The Heron Kings (Ironical isn't it? Heron Kings and not Heron Queen 😀?) 

This story is described accurately enough in GoodReads. So accurate that the synopsis covers the entire story. What this novel lacks in intrigue is more than made up by the delicious way the story is told. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing and the story. 

Be aware of the trigger warnings before going into the book, though. 
There are enough gore and cursing to last you a week. Some scenes were so brutal that I almost had a physical reaction to it, I felt nauseous by the end of some scenes. 

I don't like gory scenes or unnecessary violence. But, this book is all about war and the destruction it unleashes on the common people. The involuntary victims of any carnage. Hence, the gore and violence were most certainly justifiable. 

What appealed to me? 
1. I liked the characters. Though there isn't a speck of romance between the main characters, the camaraderie and easy banter between them was easily the best thing in this novel. I loved the way they looked out for each other, even under the direst of circumstances. 
2. The accurate depiction of the ill-effects (are there any good effects? except for the rulers maybe?) of the war. 
  Especially of the fact that: 
  a. Somebody will definitely profit from all that destruction. 
  b. There is no war without an agenda. 
  c. Once unleashed it almost always escalates pretty soon and pretty much gets out of the control of the very powers that started it. 

What didn't appeal to me? 
The ending - There is no way to put this nicely. I was sorely disappointed with the ending. Especially when the entire book was building up to the end and it ended so anticlimactically. I felt cheated out of a satisfactory ending. 
There is no big speech or grand gestures, and I was fine with it, as I have seen that in one too many novels, but, I think the ending should have at least been worth the sacrifices and tribulations faced by the characters throughout the novel. 

Conclusion 

Overall I enjoyed this book a lot despite the gore & violence and despite my minor complaint on the ending. The story was good, characters were fabulous, each with their unique motivations and ethics. 

The constant moral dilemma faced by each character and the actions resulting from that dilemma was a nice touch to the story. It gave hope in an otherwise grim situation. I am not sure if this novel falls under fantasy genre though it read more like a fictional action drama. I recommend reading and enjoying this fast, gripping read over a weekend. 

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
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Rating: 8/10

In The Heron Kings, Eric Lewis has brought a really interesting narrative to life. It is a story of war and revenge, vigilante justice and self-discovery. The characters are fascinating, and the world building is really good, as well, making for a well-balanced book.

The Heron Kings is character-driven, and what I love about the setup is that, while for much of the story many of the characters are traveling together seemingly working toward a single goal, each person is also on their own individual journey. The two main protagonists are Alessia an Ulnoth: the former trying to find her way after leaving the cloister to help those in need, the latter looking for revenge against soldiers who attacked his village. They make a bit of an odd couple, which adds to the intrigue of the story when they are thrown together on this journey. Of course, they meet many others along the way who wish to join their cause, each with his or her own motivation and end goal in mind. This is the kind of story where the reader gets to know many characters throughout the book, and in a way feels very intimate. I enjoyed the closeness I felt to the characters.

Even though it was a bit small, I thought the world building was good. The history of the Kingdoms is demonstrated through the actions of the leaders: this is a time of war, and it shows. Tensions are high between the kings and queens, and it is the commoners who are caught in the crossfire. I like the unique setup of this world, and how the back and forth between ruling parties affects everyone else. This is a great medium for a growing story to branch out: people turning to mob rule, creating militias, and other groups for protection. Alessia, Ulnoth, et al, fighting the powers that be on both sides of the conflict. It creates a lot of action-filled drama, and makes for an intriguing read.

There was one noticeable flaw, in my opinion, and that was the fact that there was not enough tension-building from beginning to end. While there were pockets of intrigue and drama throughout the book, I would have liked to have had more buildup overall toward one larger goal. It felt as though there were a series of small climaxes, but having one peak to work towards would have added an extra layer to the story.

Overall, I enjoyed reading The Heron Kings. The story was interesting, the characters were easy to connect with, and the world building was very good. I recommend this book for fantasy readers.
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The Heron Kings is a brutal book. It does not shy away from the horrors of war, especially for those caught in the middle. That said, it will not be for everyone. There is a lot of violence and gore, with attempted rape, death of a child and one particularly horrific scene involving a Pregnant woman that may discourage some readers. At times, it feels a little too extreme, even when considering that within the context of a war that has been raging for years, that has pushed all sides to extremes. Yet for the most part, you can see the reasoning behind each act, no matter how horrific and how much you disagree with it, and it fits in with the savage world of the story.
       What ‘The Heron Kings’ does, that many books don’t is that it is written from either side of the war, but rather about those who are caught in the middle. Not soldiers, nobles or bankers – although they all play their role throughout – but the peasants, who have suffered because of the war because of raids, conscription, lack of supplies, and the need of both sides to send a message. This is not a story about choosing sides. It is about remaining neutral, surviving in a world where everyone apart from those trapped in the middle with you would kill you in an instant, revenge and trying to bring the war to an end. Not so that one side can triumph over the other, but so that the characters – and the people they represent – can survive and reclaim the world that had been taken from them by the war. I enjoyed this approach, and for me, this is where the biggest impact of this book lay.
   In terms of characterisation, I felt that the strength lay in the main characters rather than the secondary characters. Alessia caught my attention from the start, not least because she wasn’t a warrior but a physic who wanted to help people and was ultimately prevented by the war trying to cast her on one side of the conflict which set her on her path into that middle ground. She is an interesting character, because while she has the ideals of being ‘lawful good’, she isn’t a saint, and she develops and changes because of what she witnesses and endures. Ulnoth lost everything and turned to revenge, but even that wasn’t that simple, because it wasn’t targeted only at the side that had destroyed his life, but at both sides of the war, understanding even in his grief and occasional ‘madness’ that both sides were responsible for the conflict. They made for an unusual pair, initially brought together by circumstance, but through wit, banter and negotiation, their relationship and approaches dovetailed nicely and brought together the rest of the cast.
    Another character who played a large role in the story was Vivian, a common-born Spymistress, and she was written exceptionally well, showing a great deal of intelligence of personality. We were given hints, and intriguing plot points via her character, and I would love to have learned more about her, both in terms of her backstory but her role in the larger war. Still, the intrigue around her character was done beautifully and added another facet to the story.
     The secondary cast certainly added to the story, showing different parts of this middle ground – some were there for survival, some by chance – but all affected by the war in one way or another, and wanting to stay out of the conflict. There were points where they seemed to blend into one another, and with a few exceptions, it was sometimes difficult to feel invested in enough in certain individuals to appreciate them fully. In some ways, The Heron Kings feels that it should have been a longer book, and maybe with more room for the development of the cast, this would not have been the case. 
    I enjoyed Lewis’ writing, and for the most part, I found it incredibly well-paced, if a little too dialogue-heavy at parts, but there was enough action and key events to stop that from slowing the plot down. The description is very bare-bones, whether about characters or setting, and much of what we learn about the context and world-building is through conversates and inside thoughts, something that worked very well in this book, allowing the characters to carry the story. The ending did feel a little rushed, again giving the impression that the book should have been longer to do it full justice, but for all that, I enjoyed the ending, and in particular, I liked the fact that it didn’t just automatically reset things. The characters didn’t just slip back into their old lives, the losses and suffering left scars that would endure.
    For me, the good points certainly outweighed the bad, and I was gripped from start to finish reading this book in the space of an afternoon. If you like darker, grimdark fantasy and aren’t squeamish then this is a book I would highly recommend, especially if you want a unique view of war and its impact on those caught in the middle.
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If you are looking for a fun romp through gritty fantasyland, The Heron Kings might just be what you need. Featuring a ragtag team bumbling through a land at war, trying to survive between enemy factions while healing, plundering and tricking their way to survival and accidentally landing themselves in deeper waters than they expected, this really does remind me of the dynamic of a D&D campaign where the DM has lost control and the players have taken over. While entertaining, it does make it a bit hard to follow at times – but then, I read an advance copy and the signposting could easily have been fixed in final edits.

I thoroughly enjoyed Alessia’s character holding up the story – it is not often that a healer is put front and centre, and especially one that starts out with lofty morals but soon grows a pair and becomes adept at weathering the challenges of uncertain times. She is a refeshing main character for the genre, and I hope to read more women like her in the future! Her companion, Ulnoth, is less pleasant – I hated the bastard, even though I thought he was intended to be more of a hero-type. To me, he often acted incongruously, and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. The secondary characters often only pop up once or twice, or stay otherwise non-descript. I feel fleshing them out more could have given the book more substance and elevated it.

In general, there were some stellar scenes – I remember one featuring a whore very fondly – while the book as a whole seemed to never quite find the true heart of its story. There was a lot of violence, much of it not strictly necessary for the plot or character development (think random bodies found with mutilated genitalia and it being made clear that mutilations had happened as a means of execution), which made me personally roll my eyes, as I feel that the genre has moved past that in recent years. I do think a lot of what I didn’t like as much about The Heron Kings is down to its nature as a debut novel and a bunch of smaller issues that are due to reading a digital ARC that I am confident will have been fixed in the final version.

All in all, I do recommend The Heron Kings as a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening in lockdown, and read a tropey, epic, grimdark fantasy that will take you away from everything that is shitty in our world!
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The Heron Kings is a fantasy story set in a world ravaged by the violence of war, and it’s told from an unlikely protagonist – a former nun who was previously devoted to caring for the battle-wounded soldiers from both sides of the war. If you like war-time fiction and epic fantasies, then I think you’ll love this book.

While The Heron Kings tells a story that feels familiar– with bloodshed and battle camps in a fantasy world– it approaches these themes in a wholly unique way. It has themes I love and really compelling characters. Fantasy is not my go-to genre (hence my blog’s focus on Science Fiction) but when an author gives me a strong female lead and a quietly progressive take on the fantasy genre, I am in for the long haul.

The Heron Kings is at once a commentary on war and its repercussions, but at other times considers the premise of necessary violence. This book is a lot more than just a wartime story, though. The main character, the nurse and former nun Alessia, is strong-willed and determined, and starts the story completely devoted to healing, helping, and standing up for others. The choices she is faced with are choices of conscience, and I love the changing tides and solid strength of her character throughout the story. She’s a refreshing take on the strong female lead of a fantasy novel, and I’ve really enjoyed her perspective.

On top of everything else, the writing in The Heron Kings is superb, and I found it really approachable for a fantasy novel. Eric Lewis’s writing reminds me of the writing of Brandon Sanderson — with vernacular that’s uncomplicated yet full of emotion and depth — and that’s some of the highest praise I can give a fantasy novel. I think The Heron Kings would be an enjoyable read for long-time fantasy buffs and also those new to the genre. While I haven’t fully finished the book yet, I do recommend it based on my time with it so far; it’s proving to easily be a 4 star read for me. I’m super excited to not only finish this book, but also to dig into Eric Lewis’s backlist short fiction!

Thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher for providing me a copy of the book for review!
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Alessia, a novice in the temple of Polytheon, treats all those injured in the War that is raging. But a Lord enters the temple and slaughters all those deemed on the other side. As a result Mother Tanusia decrees only those fighting o. The side of this Lord will be treated, leaving anyone else to die at the gates.

Alessia decides to leave and do her physic-ing without restriction. Travelling alone she eventually meets Ulnoth, whose family had been killed by soldiers and is hell bent on revenge.

Gradually they meet others and become a small band of survivors with no allegiance to any and call themselves The Heron Kings.

When they find plans of a conspiracy they decide to join the war with them aim of ending it once and for all.

A well paced tale with great characters, Alessia being my personal favourite, lots of scheming, violence, blood and gore in a clever plot that makes this a gripping read from start to finish.

Thank you to the author, the publishers and NetGalley  for the opportunity to read this for free, This is my honest, unbiased review.
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TW: attempted rape, descriptions of violence and gore, death of a child

This book was brutal. Be aware of that when you start this!
This is a book about a brutal war, seen from the point of view from the ones stuck in the middle: the peasants and normal working class. It shows how brutal war can be, and it does not hold back.

Most of the characters aren't like-able, they are mean, they are selfish, they're just awful. However, it fits the circumstances that they're in. The world was built well and the choices of the characters made sense (for the situation that they were in). The ending felt a little rushed, but that was what I had expected when I started it.

One point that bothered me was the following: so, this other king in the east is benefiting from this whole war by working together with the bank right? but the bank or is this king wasn't in the position to make these two kingdoms start their war. When the war started, both of the kingdoms already worked with the bank. How did the bank know this whole war was going to happen, and that they could benefit from this?

If you can handle gore, blood, death and descriptions of (sexual) violence in general: i recommend this book. Otherwise I would not!
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This is a grim-dark story in a war-torn country where the common rabble is the biggest loser. They find themselves between a hammer and an anvil, Queen Engwara and King Pharamund.
We follow Alessia, a novice healer nun, and Ulnoth, a man who's lost everything, gather the broken and leftover war victims to start their own rebellion. Their goal is to end this war.

I really enjoyed reading this story, although there are some gruesome scenes in there. 
Content warning for attempted rape, torture, mutilation and an especially horrific execution of a pregnant woman. Not for the light-hearted. 

I'd love to have had a map of some sorts to see where the different towns are and the borders of the country. I found the religions and marchmen culture that were mentioned throughout the book fascinating and I wanted to know more about them. The book could've been easily another 100 pages longer to flesh out the cultures, world and some of the secondary characters.

Heron Kings is a great debut novel and Eric Lewis has definitely potential. If you like Joe Abercrombie or Sam Sykes then you should check this one out. I especially liked Vinian the spymaster. She made for a great character and I wanted to read more about her. I am going to keep an eye out for the author's next book.

⭐⭐⭐⭐
4 out of 5 stars for this new grim-dark war story and it's out now!

Publisher: Flame Tree Publishing
Link: www.flametreepublishing.com/The-Heron-Kings-ISBN-9781787583894.html
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I just couldn't get into this book.  I tried reading it numerous times but I just couldn't get into it.
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Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All of the views expressed in this review are my own.
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I was very excited to read this as the blurb led me to believe I was in for a nonstop action packed novel.

Although it started out well, unfortunately the plot veered into so many directions that it was difficult to keep track of them all. The characters were also not very developed and I found it hard to relate to or empathize with them.

Overall rating: 2.5/5 stars
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I was given a copy of this book in return for an honest review. 
I tried to get into the Heron Kinga but found it really quite difficult. At 15% of the way in I've decided not to continue. 
There are a lot of points of view very early on which makes the story hard to follow and boring as you are reading about characters you have no vested interest in. 
Alessia is an interesting character and could have had an intriguing storyline but there is very little of her in the beginning. I find this odd as I believe she is supposed to be the protagonist. 
If the story simply followed Alessia for longer to get the reader grounded in the world and plot I think I would have been more willing to continue.
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The strong and willful heroine of this epic heroic fantasy, Alessia, reminds me of two strong women in Michael Swanwick's IN THE DRIFT,  which I had just read. All three are leaders by nature as well as design, healers, women to whom followers naturally gravitate,  women who risk their lives for their righteous causes. It's refreshing to me to discover women characters in such roles in fantasy, science fiction,  and apocalyptic speculative fiction.
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I wanted to enjoy this book, the premise was good and the cover is gorgeous. I got fed up of the characters lack of decisions and always uhming and aging. 

The first half of the book was pure world building with the story only starting in the second half which was frustrating.
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The first chapter set up a lot of potential, but the rest of the story unfortunately didn't follow through, in my opinion. The main character Alessia lives at a temple turned sanctuary while a war is going. The temple refuses to take sides in the war that's dragged on for years with no end in sight, tending to the injured from both sides. Food and supplies are low. The temple is attacked for not taking sides. Alessia refuses to accept the brutality as inevitable. With no knowledge of war, fighting, or how to use weapons, she departs the temple to try to do something about it. This is where it falls apart.

In her travels, she picks up strays like herself who have far more experience with war, who eventually call themselves The Heron Kings. Unfortunately, everyone kept getting mixed up in my head. There wasn't a lot of substance to the main cast, and Alessia's first stray, who seems the most interesting, is too hungry for bloodshed to be considered a 'good guy'. Some of the minor characters were more interesting, even if they were the villains who were meant to be hated (which I did).

I also felt the author took the 'adult' part of 'adult fantasy' to the extreme in some places. Swearing, fine. Implied rape, okaaaaaay I can skirt that I guess. But the constant implied rape, and intense violence made me uncomfortable. Yes rape happens during war but it doesn't have to be mentioned more than a few times.
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If you liked The Lord of the Rings, I feel like there is a chance you might like The Heron Kings.

I really enjoyed reading this adventure book. It all starts with Alessia, a temple priestess tired of the ongoing war, who decides to take her life into her own hands and go out in the world to do more. After she meets Ulnoth, who's lost everything to the war, she starts healing people and assembling people around her. When they stumble upon a proof of conspiracy, they start getting involved in the war.

The mood of the book reminded me of LOTR because we have a whole party travelling the realm while hiding in the forest most of the time. It really had that vibe ! The story also was pretty slow, with some minor interaction here and there, just like LOTR. I must admit that's the reason I'm not rating it 5 stars. The main plot didn't start until 40/50% of the book, and I had grown a little bored by then. Some of the actions were also quite repetitive, and I would have wanted more diversity action-wise in this !

What I loved here were the characters. Alessia snatched my heart from page 1, and kept it all book long. Then, new characters show up around her, one by one, and that's written seamlessly, which didn't make me feel overwhelmed by the number of characters for once ! I didn't feel a connection to them all, but they were all pretty decent, with a real backstory for most, and with an definite personnality to distinguish them all from each other.

Overall, The Heron Kings is a good book, with great characters and a specific vibe to it. I only wish there would have been more diversified action, but it still had a lot going on, with a lot of descriptions.
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I really enjoyed this book, rich characters and an intense timeline, excellent world building. 
I am super excited for sequels to this book!
I am very grateful to netgalley for giving me an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion 
#netgalley #theheronkings
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A young healer sets off on a quest to heal those injured in the war. She teams up with other rebels who have no cares about who wins the war, but just want it to stop., to help end the war before there is no one left to rule over.

I liked the story well enough. I had a hard time connecting with any characters due to a lack of any romantic relationships. As far as action and intrigue goes.... this book had all of that.
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