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The Heron Kings

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After a warlord slaughters her patients, Sister Alessia quits the cloister and strikes out on her own to heal the victims of a brutal dynastic conflict. Her roaming forest camp unwittingly becomes the center of a vengeful peasant insurgency, raiding the forces of both sides to survive. Alessia struggles to temper their fury as well as tend wounds, consenting to ever greater violence to keep her new charges safe. When they uncover proof of a foreign conspiracy prolonging the bloodshed, Alessia risks the very lives she's saved to expose the truth and bring the war to an end. FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launched in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.

288 pages, Paperback

Published April 23, 2020

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About the author

Eric Lewis

190 books13 followers
Eric Lewis is the author of The Heron Kings, an “excellent debut” that is “dark, brutal and bloody” and “fast-paced & gripping” with “a Robin Hood feel.” The sequel The Heron Kings' Flight is a "high-energy, atmospheric follow-up" and a "pulse-pounding adventure" that is "sure to please."

He is also the author of several works of speculative short fiction published in Nature, Speculative North, Cossmass Infinities, Electric Spec, Bards & Sages Quarterly, the anthology Crash Code, and various other pro, semipro and amateur venues. His short stories are also available in the collections Tricks of the Blade and As It Seems.

His greatest writing influences are Frank Herbert, Robert Graves, Sharon Kay Penman, Colleen McCullough, Peter S. Beagle and Joe Abercrombie. By day he is a research scientist weathering the latest rounds of mergers and layoffs and trying to remember how to be a person again long after surviving grad school.

When not subjecting his writing to one rejection after another he can sometimes be found browsing antique swords he can’t afford, or searching for the perfect hiking trail or archery range. Don’t ask where because he’s never lived anywhere for longer than five years.

He engages in shameless self-promotion on Twitter @TheHeronKing. Details, newsletter & blog at ericlewis.ink.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 37 reviews
Profile Image for Edward.
327 reviews834 followers
March 3, 2020
Check out my review for The Heron Kings on Grimdark Magazine at: Grimdark Magazine

I was sent an ARC of The Heron Kings from Flame Tree Press for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to review this book.

The Heron Kings is a character-driven story about the horrors of war. Dark, brutal and bloody, Lewis is not afraid to pack a punch (or kick, or stab, or anything else violent).

‘Give my regards to the king.’

Two nations at war and a whole lot of innocent people caught in the middle, this is a tale of the middle side, those not interested in the war, only surviving. I use the word innocent lightly, as Lewis highlights himself through the effect of war, is anyone really innocent? The Heron Kings follows several point of views.

Firstly, Alessia is a physic who leaves the safety of her temple to help to the best of her abilities those caught up in the brutality of war. She is a strong lead who wants to do good but refreshingly wasn’t a saint. Ulnoth is a farmer whose family and village is slaughtered during the war and he decides to take the revenge path. These two carry the bulk of story-time and work well together as two different people going the same direction, just in very opposite ways. Another character, Vivian - ‘Burned Bitch’ / spy for one of the warring nations - played a large role in the story and I enjoyed her chapters the most. She was written well, full of intelligent dialogue and intriguing plot points.

‘All that’s mine is yours to command. Let gods and men witness, from now until death I serve Your Majesty in all things…’

There is a group of secondary characters than to me seemed to blend, each sounding just that bit too similar. They supported the main few and added interest but lacked a certain something to carry themselves to levels that would have made me care about them. Ulnoth’s and Alessia’s relationship, though tropey, was written well and Lewis included wit, banter and depth to both that was one of his strong points.

Lewis’ prose was clear and concise. I wasn’t confused at any point and knew exactly what was going on and what the characters through. Lewis writes in a very dialogue heavy way, with little to no description of characters appearances and the setting. We find out the world-building and history of the land through conversations and the occasional inside thought. I liked this style as it only added to the strong characters and allowed me to paint for myself the picture of this medieval-fantasy world.

‘May the gods light both our paths… and darken our enemy’s.’

As the story grows there is lots of to-and-fros with the various forces which reminded me of The Patriot (great film, by the way). I really liked how The Heron King’s was focused on the middle side rather than one of the nations. Plotwise, I felt that at times it was a little thin and I did question a lot of tactics / character choices. There were points in the story where events felt forced and unrealistic, or just a little too easy. However, reflecting back on the novel I there were enough events and conflicts that kept the story progressing towards the end and had a good ratio of dialogue-action sequences.

Considering the tone of the book, at times it was adult, at times very adult which to me felt sometimes too extreme. Whether it be bursts of swearing, or crude scenes or implied rape, or intense violence that made me squirm, it took me out of the story. (Warning! There are a few scenes that could push people to putting it down). I understand why the author used some of this, just to me it felt like it didn’t fit with the overall tone of the book.

‘One spear wound and one dead ex-comrade. Better be worth it.’

3/5 - A promising debut from Eric Lewis. The Heron Kings is full of consistent characters that are inspiring and tough. Gruesome at times, this shows the true savagery of war and has enough action and intrigue to keep you on your toes.
Profile Image for Vigasia.
386 reviews20 followers
January 29, 2020
This book surprised im in a very good way. It was just my kind of a story. It shows us the world at war, but our protagonists aren't nobles or soldiers, but peasants, who don't agree to take sides and decide to form their own army of rebels who take revenge for wrongs done to them.

There is no shortage of violence in the book. It probably will put off some people but I didn't mind. It was a world at war, and deeds done there were apt for that kind of situation.

What I liked the most were characters. There's plenty of them we meet, and I wouldn't say any of them was a lawful good. Maybe Alessia (our main character) tried to be, but even she failed sometimes saitsfied that bad people got what they deserved. Other characters worth of attention were Ulnoth (a farmer who lost his family and now wants every soldier to pay for that), Corren (a deserter who couldn' take a violence done by soldiers) and many other side characters who also had great potential. But my personal favourite was Vinian, a spymistress called a Burned Bitch because of scars from fire. She wasn't one of the peasant's, but the loyal servant of one of the sides, yet she played a big role in the story and I'd be glad to know more of her.

I think the book was very good, but not without issues.

My first complaint is for technical detail that can be easily fixed: in my copy of book the spaces between paragraphs were too small and often I felt confused what was going on because I didn't catch that the scenery changed.

Also, I'd liked the book to be longer. I rarely complain that something is too short, but here we have characters with so much potential and not time to explore it. I'd like to see more interactions between protagonists and side characters, see how they bonded, because we can see they became close but the process of developing this friendship is kinda rushed.

And the last thing - the ending. It also felt rushed. As I said earlier - this book could be about a 100 pages longer to let us fully enjoy the setting, the plot and the characters.
Profile Image for Tana 🌻 Cozyreadings.
383 reviews84 followers
April 28, 2020
28/04/2020

received an arc from Netgalley and the publisher, in exchange for an honest review

TW: attempted rape, descriptions of violence and gore, death of a child

This book was brutal. Be aware of that when you start this!
This is a book about a brutal war, seen from the point of view from the ones stuck in the middle: the peasants and normal working class. It shows how brutal war can be, and it does not hold back.

Most of the characters aren't like-able, they are mean, they are selfish, they're just awful. However, it fits the circumstances that they're in. The world was built well and the choices of the characters made sense (for the situation that they were in). The ending felt a little rushed, but that was what I had expected when I started it.

One point that bothered me was the following:

If you can handle gore, blood, death and descriptions of (sexual) violence in general: i recommend this book. Otherwise I would not!
Profile Image for Traveling Cloak.
260 reviews39 followers
May 6, 2020
In The Heron Kings, Eric Lewis has brought a really interesting narrative to life. It is a story of war and revenge, vigilante justice and self-discovery. The characters are fascinating, and the world building is really good, as well, making for a well-balanced book.

The Heron Kings is character-driven, and what I love about the setup is that, while for much of the story many of the characters are traveling together seemingly working toward a single goal, each person is also on their own individual journey. The two main protagonists are Alessia an Ulnoth: the former trying to find her way after leaving the cloister to help those in need, the latter looking for revenge against soldiers who attacked his village. They make a bit of an odd couple, which adds to the intrigue of the story when they are thrown together on this journey. Of course, they meet many others along the way who wish to join their cause, each with his or her own motivation and end goal in mind. This is the kind of story where the reader gets to know many characters throughout the book, and in a way feels very intimate. I enjoyed the closeness I felt to the characters.

Even though it was a bit small, I thought the world building was good. The history of the Kingdoms is demonstrated through the actions of the leaders: this is a time of war, and it shows. Tensions are high between the kings and queens, and it is the commoners who are caught in the crossfire. I like the unique setup of this world, and how the back and forth between ruling parties affects everyone else. This is a great medium for a growing story to branch out: people turning to mob rule, creating militias, and other groups for protection. Alessia, Ulnoth, et al, fighting the powers that be on both sides of the conflict. It creates a lot of action-filled drama, and makes for an intriguing read.

There was one noticeable flaw, in my opinion, and that was the fact that there was not enough tension-building from beginning to end. While there were pockets of intrigue and drama throughout the book, I would have liked to have had more buildup overall toward one larger goal. It felt as though there were a series of small climaxes, but having one peak to work towards would have added an extra layer to the story. 

Overall, I enjoyed reading The Heron Kings. The story was interesting, the characters were easy to connect with, and the world building was very good. I recommend this book for fantasy readers.
Profile Image for Lel Budge.
1,397 reviews26 followers
April 29, 2020
Alessia, a novice in the temple of Polytheon, treats all those injured in the War that is raging. But a Lord enters the temple and slaughters all those deemed on the other side. As a result Mother Tanusia decrees only those fighting o. The side of this Lord will be treated, leaving anyone else to die at the gates.

Alessia decides to leave and do her physic-ing without restriction. Travelling alone she eventually meets Ulnoth, whose family had been killed by soldiers and is hell bent on revenge.

Gradually they meet others and become a small band of survivors with no allegiance to any and call themselves The Heron Kings.

When they find plans of a conspiracy they decide to join the war with them aim of ending it once and for all.

A well paced tale with great characters, Alessia being my personal favourite, lots of scheming, violence, blood and gore in a clever plot that makes this a gripping read from start to finish.

Thank you to the author, the publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this for free, This is my honest, unbiased review.
Profile Image for Andy Angel.
505 reviews42 followers
May 4, 2020
As the story starts we meet a young healer nun, Alessia, who treats all injured the same whichever side they are on in the war. When a Lord comes to their place of healing and slaughters all those deemed to be on the 'other side' the Mother (who is the Head of the healer nuns) decides to take the side of the Lord and only treat those on his 'side'.

Alessia cannot accept this so she leaves to do what she feels is right and treat all. On her travels she meets a farmer, Ulnoth, who has lost his family to the war. Together they gather a raggle-taggle bunch of misfits and decide it is time to end the war.

I must say this book was a lot more brutal and gruesome than I was expecting (not that I'm complaining - War IS brutal and gruesome and I like my fiction to feel real), definitely firmly in the Grimdark camp.

The characters were, for the most part, interesting and worth feeling invested in. The story drifted a little in the middle but the ending had me back on board.

So, if you are a fan of Grimdark this is certainly one worth looking at.

Recommended 3.8/5*
January 13, 2020
3.5 star rating.

This review is going to be like coming home after a long vacation - very difficult to unpack.

I have some conflicting thoughts and feelings about the Heron Kings. Objectively, it's a well-written adult fantasy depicting the uprising of a peasant rebel army against the violent oppression of two political monarchs at war. Alessia is an ex-temple priestess horrified by the brutality of war who seeks to put her medical prowess to proper use regardless of political allegiances. Ulnoth is a grain farmer who has his world upended when his wife and daughter are slaughtered by reavers in the name of the rebel queen. Both are helpless and wandering in the war-torn remains of their former lives, seeking out a means of retribution by whatever ill=begotten means necessary.

When their paths align, the strength of their ambitions acts as the impetus for a powerful movement of rebel villagers to stand against the invasion of dual armies. Much of the book is centered around the culmination of various groups of oppressed commonfolk deciding to join the Heron Kings, as they call themselves, and the group entering the political arena and engaging in similar bloodshed for a seemingly higher purpose of ending the war.

The bones of the story in Heron Kings work to its advantage. I found the premise unique, engaging, and was very rarely bored. Realistic battle scenes are peppered generously throughout the story and are probably equal in number to the scenes where there is downtime. The politics and culture of the world are expertly woven and give a level of cultural depth that many fantasy novels strive for and fail to provide. The focus of the plight of the common villagers, victims of heinous atrocities of war, rather than highlighting the royalty, was a refreshing narrative to explore.

My issues with how the story itself was conveyed relate to the choice to make the story very heavily dialogued. I feel like 80% of the book had to be dialogue, and a lot of it was political exposition that didn't make sense until the reader was acclimated to the plot. There was very little descriptive articulation of contextual scenery or characters. I barely had any inkling of an idea what these characters looked like or visually what was going on in scenes. It was hard for my mind's eye to get a grasp on the events as they unfolded because it was described so minimally. All of it was kind of up to the interpretation of the reader. There was also a tendency for there to be changes in POVs within the same chapter, with nothing to hint that there was a change except a paragraph break. Sometimes I would have to backtrack and figure out through context clues who was speaking and where we were in the story. But most of the time the characters sounded the same (except when some had thick accents which made me have to slow down and decipher what they were saying.) And because the focus was more on the politics of war rather than characterization, I really felt like most of the characters sounded the same. It almost felt like the story distanced the reader from the characters, focusing more on the group's actions as a political device rather than getting caught up in the individual traits that made them up. I probably couldn't tell you one discerning character trait between them. If this was the intention, then it makes sense because the focus is on a grander political scale but it's just not something that I personally resonated with.

It should also be said that there were some pretty gruesome scenes that could be triggering (including attempted and implied rape, torture, dismemberment). I typically am pretty resilient against these kinds of things, but there was one particular scene involving violence against a pregnant woman that will probably haunt me for a little bit. Squeamish readers should probably avoid.

Thank you to Netgalley for providing a digital copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Lel Budge.
1,397 reviews26 followers
April 29, 2020
Alessia, a novice in the temple of Polytheon, treats all those injured in the War that is raging. But a Lord enters the temple and slaughters all those deemed on the other side. As a result Mother Tanusia decrees only those fighting o. The side of this Lord will be treated, leaving anyone else to die at the gates.

Alessia decides to leave and do her physic-ing without restriction. Travelling alone she eventually meets Ulnoth, whose family had been killed by soldiers and is hell bent on revenge.

Gradually they meet others and become a small band of survivors with no allegiance to any and call themselves The Heron Kings.

When they find plans of a conspiracy they decide to join the war with them aim of ending it once and for all.

A well paced tale with great characters, Alessia being my personal favourite, lots of scheming, violence, blood and gore in a clever plot that makes this a gripping read from start to finish.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour, for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.
Profile Image for Alyshia.
201 reviews4 followers
January 14, 2020
Warnings: attempted rape, implied rape, violence, gore, language

Rating 4.5 stars: Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the free arc in return for an honest review

The Heron Kings is definitely a different type of book. It takes place during a war between the red and green. It’s bleak and vicious. There is no mercy nor is there any glossing over events. I really appreciated that. So many books seem to make things less than. Less fighting. Less swearing. Less pillaging. Less whatever. The Heron Kong’s explores it all. It truly feels like this is what a war would be; it’s very believable in that aspect. There were a few things that I didn’t love, but they were more minor. This book is told in the third person with multiple points of views. There aren’t any clear breaks, at least not in e-format, between characters/settings. It made things hard to follow at points. Luckily, names were given early with new chapters and passages, so you could figure out which part of the story you’re in. I also didn’t care for how some of the characters wanted others to be people they weren’t. I get this is fiction and fantasy. It’s not real, and even if it was, people want others to change all the time. But, before teaming up, certain characters made it very clear what they stood for. Yet, again and again, they would clash because of those beliefs. It just kind of annoyed me, like “you knew this about them before everything started. Get over it or split up.!” At least, that’s what I think in my head towards a few. However, it does lessen as the books go on. That’s why I said minor issues. Overall, I love the rawness of the book and the twist at the end. Great read.!!
Profile Image for D.K. Hundt.
504 reviews20 followers
July 6, 2020

‘After a warlord slaughters her patients, Sister Alessia quits the cloister and strikes out on her own to heal the victims of a brutal dynastic conflict. Her roaming forest camp unwittingly becomes the center of a vengeful peasant insurgency, raiding the forces of both sides to survive.’

If you’re looking for epic fantasy action and adventure novel with strong female characters, then I highly recommend reading THE HERON KINGS.

Profile Image for Rowena Andrews.
Author 2 books53 followers
May 5, 2020
*I received an e-arc in exchange for an honest review*

The Heron Kings is a brutal book. It does not shy away from the horrors of war, especially for those caught in the middle. That said, it will not be for everyone. There is a lot of violence and gore, with attempted rape, death of a child and one particularly horrific scene involving a Pregnant woman that may discourage some readers. At times, it feels a little too extreme, even when considering that within the context of a war that has been raging for years, that has pushed all sides to extremes. Yet for the most part, you can see the reasoning behind each act, no matter how horrific and how much you disagree with it, and it fits in with the savage world of the story.

What ‘The Heron Kings’ does, that many books don’t is that it is written from either side of the war, but rather about those who are caught in the middle. Not soldiers, nobles or bankers – although they all play their role throughout – but the peasants, who have suffered because of the war because of raids, conscription, lack of supplies, and the need of both sides to send a message. This is not a story about choosing sides. It is about remaining neutral, surviving in a world where everyone apart from those trapped in the middle with you would kill you in an instant, revenge and trying to bring the war to an end. Not so that one side can triumph over the other, but so that the characters – and the people they represent – can survive and reclaim the world that had been taken from them by the war. I enjoyed this approach, and for me, this is where the biggest impact of this book lay.
In terms of characterisation, I felt that the strength lay in the main characters rather than the secondary characters. Alessia caught my attention from the start, not least because she wasn’t a warrior but a physic who wanted to help people and was ultimately prevented by the war trying to cast her on one side of the conflict which set her on her path into that middle ground. She is an interesting character, because while she has the ideals of being ‘lawful good’, she isn’t a saint, and she develops and changes because of what she witnesses and endures. Ulnoth lost everything and turned to revenge, but even that wasn’t that simple, because it wasn’t targeted only at the side that had destroyed his life, but at both sides of the war, understanding even in his grief and occasional ‘madness’ that both sides were responsible for the conflict. They made for an unusual pair, initially brought together by circumstance, but through wit, banter and negotiation, their relationship and approaches dovetailed nicely and brought together the rest of the cast.

Another character who played a large role in the story was Vivian, a common-born Spymistress, and she was written exceptionally well, showing a great deal of intelligence of personality. We were given hints, and intriguing plot points via her character, and I would love to have learned more about her, both in terms of her backstory but her role in the larger war. Still, the intrigue around her character was done beautifully and added another facet to the story.

The secondary cast certainly added to the story, showing different parts of this middle ground – some were there for survival, some by chance – but all affected by the war in one way or another, and wanting to stay out of the conflict. There were points where they seemed to blend into one another, and with a few exceptions, it was sometimes difficult to feel invested in enough in certain individuals to appreciate them fully. In some ways, The Heron Kings feels that it should have been a longer book, and maybe with more room for the development of the cast, this would not have been the case.

I enjoyed Lewis’ writing, and for the most part, I found it incredibly well-paced, if a little too dialogue-heavy at parts, but there was enough action and key events to stop that from slowing the plot down. The description is very bare-bones, whether about characters or setting, and much of what we learn about the context and world-building is through conversates and inside thoughts, something that worked very well in this book, allowing the characters to carry the story. The ending did feel a little rushed, again giving the impression that the book should have been longer to do it full justice, but for all that, I enjoyed the ending, and in particular, I liked the fact that it didn’t just automatically reset things. The characters didn’t just slip back into their old lives, the losses and suffering left scars that would endure.

For me, the good points certainly outweighed the bad, and I was gripped from start to finish reading this book in the space of an afternoon. If you like darker, grimdark fantasy and aren’t squeamish then this is a book I would highly recommend, especially if you want a unique view of war and its impact on those caught in the middle.
Profile Image for RRK.
284 reviews8 followers
May 16, 2020
The Heron Kings is a story of a bunch of underdogs who refuse to bend to the circumstances forced upon them by the greedy and tyrannical nobility. Alessia, a surprisingly foul-mouthed nun is caught up in the war between two wannabe rulers.

Caught between her need to heal people and to not get involved with either side, she unwittingly gives hope to a bunch of peasants and common people to fight against the nobles that oppress them. She becomes the leader of a covert insurgent group named The Heron Kings (Ironical isn't it? Heron Kings and not Heron Queen 😀?)

This story is described accurately enough in GoodReads. So accurate that the synopsis covers the entire story. What this novel lacks in intrigue is more than made up by the delicious way the story is told. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing and the story.

Be aware of the trigger warnings before going into the book, though.
There are enough gore and cursing to last you a week. Some scenes were so brutal that I almost had a physical reaction to it, I felt nauseous by the end of some scenes.

I don't like gory scenes or unnecessary violence. But, this book is all about war and the destruction it unleashes on the common people. The involuntary victims of any carnage. Hence, the gore and violence were most certainly justifiable.

What appealed to me?
1. I liked the characters. Though there isn't a speck of romance between the main characters, the camaraderie and easy banter between them was easily the best thing in this novel. I loved the way they looked out for each other, even under the direst of circumstances.
2. The accurate depiction of the ill-effects (are there any good effects? except for the rulers maybe?) of the war.
Especially of the fact that:
a. Somebody will definitely profit from all that destruction.
b. There is no war without an agenda.
c. Once unleashed it almost always escalates pretty soon and pretty much gets out of the control of the very powers that started it.

What didn't appeal to me?
The ending - There is no way to put this nicely. I was sorely disappointed with the ending. Especially when the entire book was building up to the end and it ended so anticlimactically. I felt cheated out of a satisfactory ending.
There is no big speech or grand gestures, and I was fine with it, as I have seen that in one too many novels, but, I think the ending should have at least been worth the sacrifices and tribulations faced by the characters throughout the novel.

Conclusion

Overall I enjoyed this book a lot despite the gore & violence and despite my minor complaint on the ending. The story was good, characters were fabulous, each with their unique motivations and ethics.

The constant moral dilemma faced by each character and the actions resulting from that dilemma was a nice touch to the story. It gave hope in an otherwise grim situation. I am not sure if this novel falls under fantasy genre though it read more like a fictional action drama. I recommend reading and enjoying this fast, gripping read over a weekend.

https://rrkreads.com/the-heron-kings-...
Profile Image for Fab.
335 reviews11 followers
May 4, 2020
If you are looking for a fun romp through gritty fantasyland, The Heron Kings might just be what you need. Featuring a ragtag team bumbling through a land at war, trying to survive between enemy factions while healing, plundering and tricking their way to survival and accidentally landing themselves in deeper waters than they expected, this really does remind me of the dynamic of a D&D campaign where the DM has lost control and the players have taken over. While entertaining, it does make it a bit hard to follow at times – but then, I read an advance copy and the signposting could easily have been fixed in final edits.

I thoroughly enjoyed Alessia’s character holding up the story – it is not often that a healer is put front and centre, and especially one that starts out with lofty morals but soon grows a pair and becomes adept at weathering the challenges of uncertain times. She is a refeshing main character for the genre, and I hope to read more women like her in the future! Her companion, Ulnoth, is less pleasant – I hated the bastard, even though I thought he was intended to be more of a hero-type. To me, he often acted incongruously, and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. The secondary characters often only pop up once or twice, or stay otherwise non-descript. I feel fleshing them out more could have given the book more substance and elevated it.

In general, there were some stellar scenes – I remember one featuring a whore very fondly – while the book as a whole seemed to never quite find the true heart of its story. There was a lot of violence, much of it not strictly necessary for the plot or character development (think random bodies found with mutilated genitalia and it being made clear that mutilations had happened as a means of execution), which made me personally roll my eyes, as I feel that the genre has moved past that in recent years. I do think a lot of what I didn’t like as much about The Heron Kings is down to its nature as a debut novel and a bunch of smaller issues that are due to reading a digital ARC that I am confident will have been fixed in the final version.

All in all, I do recommend The Heron Kings as a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening in lockdown, and read a tropey, epic, grimdark fantasy that will take you away from everything that is shitty in our world!
Profile Image for Eryn Bradshaw.
49 reviews18 followers
September 20, 2020

War stories are often told from the perspective of those fighting the war, whether it be the soldiers or leaders. The Heron Kings, however, take the perspective of the common folk trying to get by, not taking either side in the war. Alessia, a young healer, meets Ulnoth, a farmer, and together they start a group called the Heron Kings. They take in the sick, injured, and displaced people. Together, they uncover a conspiracy plot and take matters into their own hands and attempt to end the war.

The concept of The Heron Kings I loved. There are so many stories to be told, and not all stories are about heroes and villains. Sometimes, it's just normal people trying to live their lives and escape the horrors of war. It was extremely well-written and fast-paced. Not once did I feel bored by the plot.

However, there were quite a few things I took issue with in this book. The biggest problem was the flat, boring, predictable characters. When more characters were introduced, they all blurred together and I couldn't keep track of them all. I did not care about the characters or their motivations. And take this the right way, I was probably not the target audience for this book (although I thought I was when I picked it up), this book is way too violent. I don't mind violence; I play violent video games all the time. But it was brutal just to be brutal. Ulnoth was a blood-thirsty farmer, who maimed a few people. A general killed a pregnant woman by cutting open her stomach and letting her bleed out. It was far too graphic for me to the point where it made me feel ill reading all the gory details. War is brutal, it's not pleasant, I understand that. It was just too much for me.

I have to give this book a 2 out of 5. I was just uncomfortable with read this book and I really couldn't connect to the characters at all. Again, I am likely not the target audience, others have enjoyed it, it just wasn't for me.

Flame Tree Press provided a copy of The Heron Kings through Netgalleyin exchange for an honest review. Thank you for allowing me to read this book!



Check out more reviews on my blog!
Profile Image for Marie Sinadjan.
Author 2 books22 followers
June 20, 2022
If you're here for dragons and other fantastical creatures of their kind, then you might be disappointed. If you're here for a royal romance, or to cheer on princesses and queens, you might be disappointed too, because this isn't that type of epic fantasy story. The Heron Kings is more like Game of Thrones but without the dragons and the White Walkers, and with much less focus on the lords and royals. It's also character-driven rather than plot-driven, though there's no shortage of action and violence. It's a story of war, after all. And unlike some stories that romanticize war, this one doesn't hold back. It shows the reality of war and exposes its horrors. It speaks of despair and hopelessness and the many different, ugly ways war can affect people, especially those who are caught in the middle or are mere victims of circumstance.

Yes, the Heron Kings aren't kings. They're peasants-turned-rebels who employ guerilla tactics and use the forest as their battleground, led by a former priestess, a deserter, and a farmer. Later, they're joined by many more, with some characters more memorable than others. True to form, they don't always get along! They have their own values, motives, issues and traumas. Their repeated clashes might have your eyes rolling at times too, but hey, isn't that how teams work anyway? Add in the pressures of survival, the violence and deaths left and right... it's a tough life out there, and for most of the story the Heron Kings are left with little choice but to live in the moment. But they manage to make the most out of it.

There's some POV-shifting that happens in between chapters, which didn't bother me because everything's written in third person. Still, I'm noting that here for those who are nitpicky about head-hopping, so at least they're aware of that going in. Otherwise, the book's really well-written, and I've not noticed any typos or grammatical errors - and I do pay attention.

RECOMMENDED LISTENING: Children of the Revolution by Bono, Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer
Profile Image for Kaffeeklatsch and Books.
701 reviews38 followers
May 2, 2020
This is a grim-dark story in a war-torn country where the common rabble is the biggest loser. They find themselves between a hammer and an anvil, Queen Engwara and King Pharamund.
We follow Alessia, a novice healer nun, and Ulnoth, a man who's lost everything, gather the broken and leftover war victims to start their own rebellion. Their goal is to end this war.

I really enjoyed reading this story, although there are some gruesome scenes in there.
Content warning for attempted rape, torture, mutilation and an especially horrific execution of a pregnant woman. Not for the light-hearted.

I'd love to have had a map of some sorts to see where the different towns are and the borders of the country. I found the religions and marchmen culture that were mentioned throughout the book fascinating and I wanted to know more about them. The book could've been easily another 100 pages longer to flesh out the cultures, world and some of the secondary characters.

Heron Kings is a great debut novel and Eric Lewis has definitely potential. If you like Joe Abercrombie or Sam Sykes then you should check this one out. I especially liked Vinian the spymaster. She made for a great character and I wanted to read more about her. I am going to keep an eye out for the author's next book.

⭐⭐⭐⭐
4 out of 5 stars for this new grim-dark war story and it's out now!

Publisher: Flame Tree Publishing
Link: www.flametreepublishing.com/The-Heron...
Profile Image for Jenna Jeffries.
4 reviews1 follower
May 29, 2020
At first I wasn't sure how to rate this. It's well written but really dark and violent, especially in a few places. But I decided it made sense given the harsh world the characters live in- the only way a bunch of regular peasants could become killers was if they were driven to the edge with no other choice. I really enjoyed this one, it was super fast paced with realistically written characters and dialogue. The main characters are a nun/nurse, a farmer and a soldier who all leave their regular lives due to traumatic experiences during a bloody civil war. They and others come together almost like in a D&D campaign, all contributing different skills. They're sick of being victims so they strike back against both sides using trickery or sometimes just brute force. The different character arcs are interesting to see, how each one has a different reaction to the violence they encounter. When they find a piece of intelligence that reveals the whole war is part of a bigger plot, they have to decide whether to risk it all to try and expose the truth and end it. The ending is bittersweet, and despite the blood and gore has surprisingly a lot of heart and hopefulness.


The dialogue is both realistic and snappy, especially from the spymistress character. The nobles were kind of silly, but maybe that was the point. I felt the violence was over the top in places, but never gratuitous. It had some interesting things to say about power and resistance, and how people are changed by trauma. Some side characters are a bit under developed, and the scene changes sometimes left me wondering where I was. It has a kind of rough feeling, but that suits the setting. Looking forward to a sequel!
Profile Image for Eric Lahti.
Author 18 books45 followers
February 5, 2021
Lewis threw me a curveball. I was basically expecting another gleaming armies bashing each other story. What I got was not only an exciting change of pace, but a well-thought pondering of the human condition in times of extreme stress. He doesn’t pull punches, either. And to make things even better, Lewis takes human nature into account. There aren’t many high-minded ideals in this book nor are there any people you can point to and say, “That’s the good guy.” This book is a shot of whiskey and a punch in the gut and it is worth every dang minute I spent reading it.
Read the whole review on my blog
1,055 reviews5 followers
May 27, 2020
Eric Lewis borrows the horrors of the 30-year war on a peninsula where two potential kings are fighting to rule. Peasants are either in the way and killed, or made an object and crucified. There’s a small group called The Heron Kings (hard from Flame Tree Press) who get good at stealing from both armies to survive. Then they capture a messenger with proof that both sides in this war are being manipulated. The fun is in getting the message to the Queen of one side and the King of the other. The full horrors of medieval and it’s effects on the peasants are depicted well. Recommended. Review printed by Philadelphia Free Press
Profile Image for TheDigressiveApproach.
197 reviews12 followers
April 23, 2020
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All of the views expressed in this review are my own.
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I was very excited to read this as the blurb led me to believe I was in for a nonstop action packed novel.

Although it started out well, unfortunately the plot veered into so many directions that it was difficult to keep track of them all. The characters were also not very developed and I found it hard to relate to or empathize with them.

Overall rating: 2.5/5 stars
247 reviews1 follower
April 18, 2022
My first thought as I finished this book was "F'ing brutal". I wasn't quite expecting that level of grimdark I think? But I liked the book. The characters are interesting and while I couldn't quite identify to any of them, it was still written in a way that I could understand them.
The beginning was quite strong in my opinion and possibly my favorite part. It just felt right as I read it; like it was resonating very strongly with me. Wasn't sure I would pick up the sequel but now that I checked the summary and see that it happens much further into the future, I think I'll give it a read.
Profile Image for Cobwebby Eldritch Reading Reindeer .
5,030 reviews260 followers
April 21, 2020
The strong and willful heroine of this epic heroic fantasy, Alessia, reminds me of two strong women in Michael Swanwick's IN THE DRIFT, which I had just read. All three are leaders by nature as well as design, healers, women to whom followers naturally gravitate, women who risk their lives for their righteous causes. It's refreshing to me to discover women characters in such roles in fantasy, science fiction, and apocalyptic speculative fiction.
Profile Image for Maurynne  Maxwell.
676 reviews20 followers
August 18, 2020
I think Lewis has pulled off an existentialist classic in this gritty exploration of what a “Robin Hood” life would really be like. The reality of extended conflict and the futility of the “nobility” are the central theme of this novel where the dispossessed gather in an attempt to salvage one another in the midst of a war that seems it will never end.
It’s dark but not hopeless. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Jennifer Shepard.
844 reviews105 followers
September 11, 2020
I purchased this book because of the amazing reviews on Amazon and oh boy, they were all right. Such a good book with great characters that keeps you obsessed with every page since the first one. I couldn't put this down until I ended. Alessia, the main character is one of the stronger female I´ve ever read in this kind of books. I loved her! this is a Epic fantasy and if you like this gender this is definitely a must read!
89 reviews6 followers
October 10, 2020
WOW!

This is an amazing novel! The storyline was awesome! Fast paced with lots of action and adventure, picture an updated "Robin Hood" type story for adults. Only better. And by that I only mean bandits hiding in the woods and stealing from others. But the characters are great, both the good and bad. It was just a great book. Fast paced and keeps you hooked from PG 1 til the end. Its even worth a sequel.
Profile Image for D.K. Hundt.
504 reviews20 followers
September 11, 2021
‘After a warlord slaughters her patients, Sister Alessia quits the cloister and strikes out on her own to heal the victims of a brutal dynastic conflict. Her roaming forest camp unwittingly becomes the center of a vengeful peasant insurgency, raiding the forces of both sides to survive.’

If you’re looking for epic fantasy action and adventure novel with strong female characters, then I highly recommend reading THE HERON KINGS.
Profile Image for S. Naomi Scott.
252 reviews26 followers
June 18, 2020
DISCLAIMER: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest and unbiased review. My thanks to Flame Tree Press and NetGalley for giving me this opportunity.

An excellent read. Full review to follow shortly.
Profile Image for Bowen Greenwood.
Author 19 books23 followers
September 16, 2022
intense Grimdark fantasy

This is an amazing book! Memorable characters, taut suspense, and a brutal, unflinching look at the realities of medieval war. If you like your fantasy grim and dark, or maybe with a touch of horror, you will love this book.
Profile Image for Helen Simpson.
999 reviews25 followers
April 28, 2020
This book had so much potential but i felt at times it was very difficult to read. Some subjects are gruesome and graphic. At times i felt the dialogue throughout the book was excessive at times.
Profile Image for Jade.
199 reviews14 followers
March 19, 2020
If you liked The Lord of the Rings, I feel like there is a chance you might like The Heron Kings.

I really enjoyed reading this adventure book. It all starts with Alessia, a temple priestess tired of the ongoing war, who decides to take her life into her own hands and go out in the world to do more. After she meets Ulnoth, who's lost everything to the war, she starts healing people and assembling people around her. When they stumble upon a proof of conspiracy, they start getting involved in the war.

The mood of the book reminded me of LOTR because we have a whole party travelling the realm while hiding in the forest most of the time. It really had that vibe ! The story also was pretty slow, with some minor interaction here and there, just like LOTR. I must admit that's the reason I'm not rating it 5 stars. The main plot didn't start until 40/50% of the book, and I had grown a little bored by then. Some of the actions were also quite repetitive, and I would have wanted more diversity action-wise in this !

What I loved here were the characters. Alessia snatched my heart from page 1, and kept it all book long. Then, new characters show up around her, one by one, and that's written seamlessly, which didn't make me feel overwhelmed by the number of characters for once ! I didn't feel a connection to them all, but they were all pretty decent, with a real backstory for most, and with an definite personnality to distinguish them all from each other.

Overall, The Heron Kings is a good book, with great characters and a specific vibe to it. I only wish there would have been more diversified action, but it still had a lot going on, with a lot of descriptions.
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