The plot has a lot of familiar fantasy elements: a heroine with unknown powers, a medieval high fantasy setting with kings and knights, political rivalries, forbidden magic, class tension, corrupt royalty, and rampant abuse towards women. As the story unfolds Heart of Mist adds some refreshing twists to the classic hero’s journey.
The thing that made this book really stand out to me was how the plot tackles various social issues. Bleak copes with her magical powers by drowning herself in alcohol and her struggle with drinking opens up a conversation about alcoholism in young adults, a topic not often brought up in YA novels. Bleak is a flawed heroine and her character had more depth than what I’m used to seeing.
Then there are the Valia kindred, a race of proud female warriors with their own strict way of life. I liked that even the Valians, which on the surface seems like an ideal feminist society in a world where women are second class, have their own issues with social hierarchies. There was a good mix of characters and there were very few that I disliked. Most of the characters were pretty well developed with distinct personalities, often falling into a sort of grey area between good and evil.
“She followed his gaze up to the millions of glittering stars. They winked at her, as though laughing at all her predicaments and the triviality of mortal life.”
The romance was the one piece of the story that I didn’t care for all that much, mostly because it was the one plot point that felt weak and underdeveloped. The love interest’s role in the story felt so small and the conflict between them can be predicted immediately. If their relationship was better formed I might not have minded, but sadly it was just drama I could have done without. I’m hoping that the prequel novellas and the rest of the books can convince me of their relationship because as it is I just don’t feel all that strongly about the pair.
Besides my issues with the romance, I found Heart of Mist to be a compelling read that I took my time to savor. I got drawn in more and more as the story developed and some of the sinister forces started coming to light. The revelations in the story blew me away and honestly have me excited to read the next book in the series. I want to know so much more about the other continents, particularly Battalon, and I’m dying to see more of the world expanded in the rest of the trilogy.
Warnings: violence, alcohol abuse