Simon Williams is an author of dark fantasy with elements of science fiction and horror, and a rather shapeless male of indeterminate age who seems intent on writing about himself in the third person.
If you're especially lucky you may see him half-shambling, half-rolling along the street in his home town of Trumpton. You'll catch the best view from the other side of the road, which is probably where you'll be anyway. Small children will point excitedly and turn to their parents to exclaim, "It must have been *one hell of a* spade to do that!"
He is the author of the Aona series (five books in all, and the series is complete) and Summer's Dark Waters, which is a fantasy / sci-fi adventure aimed more at children and teens although judging by the reviews a lot of adults seem to like it too.
The positive response to Summer's Dark Waters further prompted him to start writing a sequel.
His favourite authors include Clive Barker, Alan Garner, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Joe Abercrombie, Ian Irvine, George R R Martin, C J Cherryh, Tad Williams, Celia Friedman, Aldous Huxley and numerous others.
When not scribbling away in his notepad of doom, the curious Mr Williams enjoys counting magpies, opening old paperbacks and marveling at how each one smells very slightly different, discussing current interest rates and inflation with the local squirrels, and eating whatever he finds at the back of the fridge (unless it's a door to Narnia, which he'd never eat just in case Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy were hoping to use it to get back).
The Aona series has got better and better with each book and The Spiral Heart is an exceptional read. Author Simon Williams has an uncanny knack for portraying unforgettable, multi-dimensional characters and in The Spiral Heart their trials and adventures are as memorable as in the previous parts of the series. The combination of continual impending doom and characters who I’ve grown to really care about, makes it an exciting read. I started and finished it in a few days almost without realising.
But in this volume we also learn more (much of it first-hand) about the Watchers and the Kin, which further muddies the waters of “good and evil”. The Kin, for example, seem reprehensible but the author has a way of introducing plausible defences for their actions.
The book covers a lot of ground. It’s the largest instalment in the series but doesn’t feel over-long at all. Plenty of action and a number of threads coming together in satisfying ways mean that tension is built and released over and over. The last few chapters in particular left me desperate for the next book (which I believe is already being written).
Another fabulous read in this Aona series, where its inhabitants continue to fight for survival against many things.
The story is wonderfully detailed with a cast of complex, intriguing and interesting characters - both good and bad. The plot is simple in many ways and yet not so, in that the characters compel us to see so much more on many levels.
As individual battles rage within larger ones, the complexity of this fantasy is revealed...as are the many secrets regarding the Watchers and the Seven, and more.
I don't give spoilers so that's it, except to say that if you enjoy an intelligent mystery of epic proportions, this series is for you.
The e-book comes with maps, always a good thing when delving into epic fantasy. They’re well drawn and worth studying. This is a big and complex tale (and has been from the very beginning, three books ago), so you’ll need all the handholds you can get. Patient, slow, attentive reading is needed throughout—forget speed-reading and forget attacking this one in brief bouts; you’ll need to set aside bigger chunks of time and think of reading it straight through if at all possible. Unless, of course, you have one of those Jeopardy game show-style memories. But your work will ultimately be rewarded, especially if dark fantasy is your thing, and light reading isn’t. A similar fate falls upon anyone reading R. R. Martin’s books, so for the right reader, nothing I’ve said so far should be particularly off-putting.
On a chapter by chapter level, I found the writing often brilliant, but sometimes obfuscating. The author doesn’t orient you to what’s going on all that well, opting for a “what’s going on here?” sense of mystery to pull you through the book. It’s a formula that’s tried and true enough for bestsellers that routinely also use a lot of unanswered questions to hook the reader. But in a complex tale like this, with a lot of arcane words to track from characters names to alien concepts like “starspawn”… if not a glossary of terms, then some additional clarity for the purpose of supplying extra handholds would have benefited me. And there is a lot of nomenclature to track in this book, reminiscent of the film Avatar, where you’re almost trying to assimilate an alien language along the way.
For all that, these densely written fantasies are insanely popular with some readers. And this one has plenty of action, gore, raw sex and passion, and all the makings of a good action film, right out of the starting gate.
The Spiral Heart is the longest book in the Aona series so far, and happily it also covers the most ground, with the action continuing to come at a good pace although it never feels so rushed that the exquisitely dark atmosphere is compromised.
I can't think of a single character in the series, and particularly in this book, who doesn't have at least some interesting facet about them that makes you want to find out more- and more importantly what happens to them- something which never seems to be certain in the Aona books. By this time (four books in) those who have read the previous instalments in the series will find most of them familiar, although some new ones also appear.
It also becomes increasingly apparent that although the series is classed as dark fantasy, it's not quite as straightforward as that- in fact it comes across more as an existential nightmare from the distant future. The Spiral Heart straddles genres comfortably because essentially it's a story of human (and other races) conflict, misery and struggle, and it somehow conjures such strong feelings of fear and hope in the reader that it manages to transcend the limitations of any genre regardless.