The Gathering of the Lost by Helen Lowe
Wall of Night series. Orbit Books, 2012. ISBN 9780356500577
(Age: Young adult/Adult) Highly recommended. Gathering of the Lost is the second of Helen Lowe's four-book Wall of Night fantasy series. Lowe loses none of her ability to weave her poetic imagery into each page, as she links these first two narratives. While retaining many familiar characters and introducing a host of new figures, she manipulates the increasingly broad cast with ease. Gathering of the Lost builds superbly on its predecessor The Heir of Night.
Lowe skilfully takes her readers into Gray Lands and Wild Lands; and speaks of the lands beyond the river and along the road to Ishnapur and Jhaine... It has been five years since Malian, The Heir of Night and her friend Kalan, were lost to the winter of Jaransor. Yet even now, there remain those - perhaps friend, perhaps foe - who still cannot believe Malian is dead...
Long ago The Earl of Night's minstrel, Haimyr the Golden, had desired that Malian flee the Wall of Night. But now there is urgency to find her. Believing the heralds Jehane Mor and Tarathan of Ar have hidden Malian, Haimyr issues a summons for the Heralds to return Malian to the Keep of Winds. The ever-astute Jehane Mor senses a veiled threat however, and ponders why the minstrel should now wish for Malian's return.
Soon there are more questions than answers. Much is happening - an attack on the Guild, bloodshed during the Festival of Masks, and an attack by the beast-men (were-hunters) for a start. Importantly, the reader is introduced to Carick, a River scholar, who was unprepared for bloodshed and warfare when he left the peaceable realms of Ar in the Riverlands and became cartographer to the Duke of Emer. Then as Jehane Mor invokes the dark sky during a wholesale attack by the were-hunters, Carick stands with arms outstretched, listening to the voice of the night-wind pleading him to hold with her, against the might and power of the were-beasts.
While there are references to killing, Lowe's lyrical narrative tempers the tone. As Lowe's cinematic composition unfolds, her readers are treated to characters who are not always who they appear to be, and Malian's whereabouts remain unclear. With inky creatures here and mind-speak there, people morphing into beast-men, and attempts to pursuade The Lost, it is easy to become absorbed in this magical web of intrigue.
Like its predecessor, Gathering of the Lost is an exceptionally well-crafted book, that builds seamlessly on its predecessor. Highly recommended for young adult and adult readers of fantasy.