tl;dr: A Requiem for Heroes is one of the best takes on “heroic” fantasy I have read and I think it will upend this genre.
Why do I think so? – It is a combination of a good storyline with excellent characters and riveting action in a world which is deceptively simple.
Now, since I read What Remains of Heroes & The Wrath of Heroes back to back, I will be combining the reviews for both these books.
The main characters are comprised of people who are ‘broken’ in one way or another and yet, strive to be better. These characters range from the wicked to the virtuous (but mostly some kind of realistic moral compass – what we like to call ‘shades of gray’ ) and their betterment is not simply fighting against all odds and winning by the strength of their hand. Rather, each of them has a different set of weaknesses – moral, spiritual, physical. They find a point in their lives where they are forced to introspect and start their difficult journey for redemption of some sorts – be it the nominal hero or the villain. And this is why I think this series is such a unique take on what heroic fantasy actually means.
David Benem’s construction of these characters is so good that I actually started feeling antipathy towards the main character Lannick. Other characters who stand out are Bale & Fenchress. But, do not take this to mean that the side characters are any less fleshed out. Even they have their own battles to fight. For me, this is the clear USP of this series.
The world building seemed okay when I read the first book but by I time I finished the second one, I realised that what I had initially assumed ‘to be’ was not so. It was deceptively simple in the first and the complexity behind it comes out as you get further into the series.
The storyline is the same. When I started the first book, I thought it would be a run of the mill fantasy setting with some religion thrown in ala The Wheel of Time. But by the time I finished the second one, I was blown away by how things had changed. I do not want to bring in spoilers but let me just say that have the patience to read the second book too.
As far as pacing is concerned, I found The Wrath of Heroes to be much better than What Remains of Heroes. WROH lost me in between, and it was touch and go whether I would continue. But the good thing is that somewhere towards the middle I started getting interested. I supposed I put down WROH maybe 3-4 times in between because it could not hold my attention during this time. But I did not put down TWOH even once due to boredom.
I am eagerly awaiting the third book in the series, whenever it may be.