The Broken Heart of Arelium {War of the Twelve no.1}

Author: Alex Robins

Genre & Themes: High fantasy, grimdark, epic

Publisher: Self-Published

First Published: March 16th, 2021

Graphic Trigger Warnings: Descriptive violence and injuries


Over 400 years ago, twelve great warriors united the beleaguered armies of men and scoured the war-torn lands of evil, pushing the enemy back into the underground pits and caverns from whence they came. To ensure their legacy, each of the Twelve founded fortress monasteries to impart their unique knowledge of war and politics to a select few, the Knights of the Twelve.

But now the last of the Twelve have long since passed from history to legend and the Knights, their numbers dwindling, are harbouring a dark and terrible secret that must be protected at all costs.

Merad Reed has spent half his life guarding a great crater known as the Pit, yearning for some escape from the bleak monotony. Then the arrival of Aldarin, one of the few remaining Knights of the Twelve, sets off a chain of cataclysmic events that will change Reed forever.

To the north, Jelaïa del Arelium, heiress to the richest of the nine Baronies, must learn to navigate the swirling political currents of her father’s court if she hopes one day to take his place. But the flickering flames of ambition hide the shadow of an even greater threat.

And deep within the earth, something is stirring.

+ ARC received in exchange for an honest review +

+ The Bookshop link is an affiliate link. If you buy through the link I receive a small commission +

The Broken Heart of Arelium is a solid first book.

It had its highs and lows, like most debuts. It helps that the print edition is about 300 pages (I believe the Ebook was about 280?) so you’re not signing up for an intimidatingly long read. Most fantasy books are 400+ pages -_-

Look at that detail 😍 there’s a different image for each POV. photo from my instagram

Before I get into the actual review, I need to talk about the formatting. This book is gorgeous. The cover is awesome, but the inside features an intricate map (which was in color in the Ebook version) and each chapter has drawings at the top. Frankly, I don’t normally expect that from a self-published novel and it was a delightful surprise. I’m thiiiis close to buying a physical copy for my shelf.

This book features Merad Reed – most commonly called Reed – and I thought he was okay. I felt least connected to him as a character, but because this book is in third person and we saw others too, it didn’t bother me that he was my least favorite. I had plenty of other characters to look to in each chapter.

Jelaïa was awesome…most of the time. I loved how political \ scientific she was. She’s also about my age (roughly 18-ish? It’s never clear but that’s my guess) so maybe that’s why she’s one of my favorites. My only gripe with her is that she fell into the trope where she compares herself to every other female character and talks about how inferior she is.

This is my least favorite thing about women characters in fantasy. I hate to see it. And it’s almost always resolved by a man telling her how beautiful she is (🙄). In all fairness, that didn’t happen in this book, so I’m willing to give the rest of the books the benefit of the doubt.

There is a lot of dialogue exposition. Enough that it lead to some out-of-character moments. 99% of exposition is given through dialogue. There was one moment in particular when a man arrived injured – like, missing an eye, multiple serious face and body injuries – and then took pages to describe what had happen in excruciating detail. He went into what he heard, smelled saw, though was happening, etc. It was out-of-character, but also took me out of the story because I was just waiting for him to pass out from the injuries he’d gotten.

With all that said, there were things I liked too. The characters were interesting, the premise is my favorite, there’s an interesting magic system being set up, and the writing was engaging enough. The ending had enough twists that I want to continue.

Disclaimer: my review is based on my life experience and reading preferences. It’s not an attack on the author, or others who liked or disliked the book.

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