a book exchange with Helen Lowe

After all that talk about gender over the last few posts, I thought I might introduce you to some authors that I know.

This past year, I met Helen Lowe on Twitter, and I have come to enjoy trading conversational tweets with her. Helen is the author The Heir of Night, which won the Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Newcomer in 2012.

Just before the holidays, Helen invited me to exchange novels with her as she did with Courtney Schafer and Elspeth Cooper. She sent me a copy of The Heir of Night, and I sent her a copy of Miserere so that we could get to know one another's works.

Thus far, I think I got the better end of this deal.

The best introduction to The Heir of Night comes from Helen herself. She talks about her exploration of the themes of good vs. evil in her post on John Scalzi's The Big Idea: Helen Lowe.

The blurb:

If Night falls, all fall . . .

In the far north of the world of Haarth lies the bitter mountain range known as the Wall of Night. Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the Wall is the final bastion between the peoples of Haarth and the Swarm of Dark—which the Derai have been fighting across worlds and time.

Malian, Heir to the House of Night, knows the history of her people: the unending war with the Darkswarm; the legendary heroes, blazing with long-lost power; the internal strife that has fractured the Derai's former strength. But now the Darkswarm is rising again, and Malian's destiny as Heir of Night is bound inextricably to both ancient legend and any future the Derai—or Haarth—may have.

The Heir of Night is the first book of the Wall of Night series, which is epic fantasy, a sub-genre that I don't normally gravitate toward; however, I want to challenge my reading habits in 2013 and try new novels and new authors. I never know when a novel will introduce to a new way of thinking or bring me back to a sub-genre that I drifted away from such as epic fantasy.

I've only had the opportunity to begin the novel, but Helen's prose is rich and dark and reminds me very much of a cross between Tad Williams and Gene Wolf.

Helen also graciously included a copy of The Gathering of the Lost, the second book in the Wall of Night series. Here is the blurb from The Gathering of the Lost:

Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the towering mountain range called the Wall of Night is all that separates the people of Haarth from the terrible Darkswarm.

Five years have passed since the Wall was breached and the Keep of Winds nearly overrun. Five years since the Heir of Night, Malian, and her friend and ally Kalan went missing in the wild lands of Jaransor.

Now, in Haarth's diverse southern realms, events are moving. From the wealthy River city of Ij to the isolated Emerian outpost of Normarch, rumors of dark forces and darker magics are growing. As the great Midsummer tournament at Caer Argent approaches, Haarth will have one opportunity to band together against an enemy in which few believe . . . or be lost forever.

When I've finished reading The Heir of Night, I'm going to ask Helen to join us for a talk about the Wall of Night series.

Meanwhile, stop by in the comments and tell me: how are you challenging your reading habits in 2013?