REVIEW: Heir Expectant

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Review: Heir Expectant, Southwind Knights #4

Okay, I’m actually just going to talk about this whole series here. I picked it up not long after the third one came out, and I’ll put it this way, I think I read 1-3 twice in one day. These are epic fantasy novellas, folks. And they are classy. Classy. CLASSY.

The fourth novella in the Southwind Knights series, Heir Expectant, came out very recently. I’ve been sitting here like a dragon ass-warming its horde, waiting, so I could tell you to buy these with some reason.

They are also priced at a very affordable ninety-nine cents. And to put how I feel about this into words, here’s a list of things you can buy for that price:

1) A Coke from a vending machine, maybe.
2) An out-of-date phone, if you sign up for another six hundred or so dollars worth of service.
3) One of those teeny packs of gum
4) One of the Southwind Knights novellas, which will ROCK YOU.

Guess what I think the best deal is. No, guess. Hint: it’s definitely not 1-3.

I won’t bore you with a summary, because I hate it when people do that in reviews. Do you like dragons, epic fantasy, tales of friendship, disillusioned youth, and matriarchies? You do? Perfect. Read these. Read them if you don’t, even.
B.E. Priest does so many things right in these I’d be hard-pressed to list it all in one measly review. These books are expertly edited, beautifully covered, carefully considered. And the biggest thing–the most important thing–the story is FANTASTIC. Yes, I am breaking out the block caps.

Asher, our hero, is a fifteen year old boy when these stories start. So far, 1-4 have taken up roughly a year of story time. And man, rarely has a character changed so dramatically, experienced the loss of innocence so deeply. Asher is frequently in just enough trouble–and is just clueless enough, which is a fine and very difficult tightrope to walk–to win the sympathy of any reader. His friends, especially the adorable and quirky (well, until book four, at least) Finn, are just as delightfully cast, in strokes broad and expert. You feel all the pain of growing up in these novellas, the angst of disillusionment, the terrible weight of sloughing off the skin of the boy and becoming a man (or something else. But you’ll get that when you read these). And what better medium to paint this story in than epic fantasy, where the stakes can be true heroism, the life of a queen or a princess?

The decision to publish this as a series of novellas was a masterful one, too. The story has a serial feel to it–best taken in short installments–and, unlike a lot of novellas out there, these really do feel like miniature novels, written in terse, mostly adverb-free prose with little fuss to it and a lot of smart condensed phrasing. In book 4, for instance, Priest uses the phrase ‘a stream of voices’ to describe activity and festivity preparation outside a room. This might not sound like a big deal, but God, that phrase captures every time someone’s sat indoors and listened to a commotion outside with none of the waste-wording, none of the clutter. For a novella, this is key. You’ve less space to impress somebody in, so do it up RIGHT.

In books 3 and 4, the action starts to rise. If I had one small criticism, it might be that it rises a little too quickly. Book 3 comes off, in fact, just a little bit as mere buildup to book 4. But holy shit, that’s mostly just because I had to WORK to find something bad. I had to think about it for a few minutes. And this is me; I don’t think.

I haven’t been disappointed by ANY of these. I hope Mr. Priest (the alias of Ronny Khuri, the author, who writers a very entertaining blog here) continues to do exactly what he’s been doing, because DAMN.
I mean, DAMN.

This is more of a gush than a review, I know. But credit where credit is due, and some credit is definitely due here.

Forgo your daily vending machine crackers and buy these novellas here:

Southwind Knights (Book 1)
The Queen of Grass and Tree (Book 2)
Scion of the Wood (Book 3)
Heir Expectant (Book 4)

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