Liane Merciel – Heaven’s Needle
76. Heaven’s Needle by Liane Merciel (2011)
Ithelas, Book 2
Read my review of book:
1. The River Kings’ Road
Length: 474 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Horror
Started: 02 June 2011
Finished: 05 June 2011
Where did it come from? From the publisher for review.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 16 May 2011.
The good guys must fight
against Madness that infects
the mind AND body.
Summary: The ruined castle of Duradh Mal lurks in the hills above the town of Carden Vale. Ever since its destruction, the fortress has been a place of fear and menace, gripped as it is in the throes of the Mad God’s power, but now something dark has been loosed, and Maol’s influence has begun to spread from Duradh Mal into the surrounding mountains. The high priest of the goddess Celestia was unaware of how bad things were when he sends two young Illuminers to minister to the people of Carden Vale, guarded only by a exiled woman warrior from the northern tribes. Also headed to Carden Vale are Kelland, the Sun Knight; Bitharn, his lifelong friend and partner; and Malentir, a Thorn of the Spider of Ang’arta, a cult dedicated to the goddess of pain. They are unlikely – and uneasy – allies, but they will need all of their separate powers if they are to have any hope of escaping from Duradh Mal with their minds and bodies intact against the taint of the Mad God.
Review: Heaven’s Needle improves on the first book in the series, The River Kings’ Road, in a number of ways. Its focus is tighter, giving Merciel more room to develop her characters and their stories, instead of the sprawling surplus of POV characters that overwhelmed the first book. She also does a better job of spinning her worldbuilding and history into a convincing and complete backdrop for the action of the story. Even her prose, which I already thought was smooth in The River Kings’ Road, has matured even further.
However, while I can objectively recognize that Heaven’s Needle is better-written and better-plotted than The River Kings’ Road, I liked it less. The tone of the book veered away from the high fantasy of the first book and straight into heavy horror – gory torture-based horror, to be specific. It’s a dark, dark book – not just emotionally dark, but physically, painfully dark – and a lot of parts are exceptionally disturbing. It’s not a style that I go for (at all), and by the midway point, it had gotten to be too much for me; I had to steel myself to push through some of the more gruesome bits. So, while Merciel’s definitely gaining skill as an author, this book was just not for me. 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Although this is technically the second book in the series, there’s very little plot overlap with The River Kings’ Road, and only Bitharn and Kelland appear in both, so it could easily be read independently. It’d probably be best for established horror fans, though; I normally don’t mind dark fantasy, but I found this book to be too disturbingly gory.
First Line: The stench of river mud was suffocating.
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