Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Review – “Dark Haven” by Gail Z. Martin

In Dark Haven, the effects of Jared the Usurper's reign of terror, strike at the stability of the Winter Kingdoms. Undead forces align against Lord Jonmarc Vahanian of Dark Haven in a struggle for power between mortals and the vayash moru. King Martris Drayke prepares for his wedding--and for war. Only one thing is certain—the Winter Kingdoms will be changed forever, and innocence is the first casualty.
Dark Haven is the third book in the Chronicles of the Necromancer epic fantasy series following The Summoner (2007) and The Blood King (2008). The first two books follow a kingdom lost/kingdom gained framework. Along the way we become immersed in the world of the Winter Kingdoms; Prince Martis Drayke (Tris), his friends, allies and companions. In Dark Haven, Tris, now king, inherits the legacy of war – the rebuilding of ravaged lives and lands and securing the peace against the remaining conspirators and opposition.

I have enjoyed all three of the books so far for a number of reasons. The world-building while thorough is not overwhelming and quickly allows you to escape into the action. The use of third person allows shifting perspectives and introduces a wide range of characters that we come to love and hate and introduces multiple story arcs. Although not as dense, it is not dissimilar to the formula George R.R. Martin successfully employs in his Ice and Fire series and this allows for a complex tale laden with action and intrigue.

In a departure from many epic fantasies, we also find an important ingredient of the story is devoted to the blossoming romantic relationships of our diverse cast. This brings a welcome dimension to the characters that help us to invest in their choices and well-being. Dark Haven sees many of these bonds mature including the marriage of Tris and Kiara, and Jonmarc and Carina. This raises the personal and political stakes and indeed a divide and conquer strategy is applied against our couples leaving them at risk and imperiled.

Another of the attributes that attracted me to the series was the liberal use of what I usually see as urban fantasy tropes. The series and Dark Haven, features Tris who is a necromancer (and Summoner) able to call, speak with and raise the dead, walk the spirit plains as well as wield magic; he can also ease the passage of ghosts and spirits to the other side. Dark mages raise the dead (zombies) and deploy supernatural creatures (demons). One of the strongest political factions is the vayash moru (vampires) who also have a loose alliance with shapeshifters (werewolves).

Despite having won back the kingdom, Tris must embark on a war campaign to quash the remaining resistance or the promise of peace will be short-lived. Each ally struggles to consolidate and strengthen their position but insidious plots abound and our protagonists are rarely left a moment to breath. Along with the intrigue, the action is often dark and bloody and should satisfy the demands of those in need of an intense sword and sorcery fix.

Dark Haven concludes with a lot of story arcs up in the air and is most certainly the first half of a broader story arc, so be prepared to wait for the outcome of the fates of many of the characters. Don’t let that hold you back though, Dark Haven is a thoroughly entertaining page turner filled with engaging good guys and suitably dangerous bad guys. I recommend that you read the series in order.

AUTHOR AND BOOK SHOWCASEOfficial Gail Z. Martin Website

BL Publishing/Solaris
Published: January 2009
ISBN #: 9781844165988
Format: Paperback
Pages: 606

Chronicles of the Necromancer:

  1. The Summoner (2007)
  2. The Blood King (2008)
  3. Dark Haven (2009)
  4. Dark Lady's Chosen (December 29, 2009)


  1. Great review!

    So far I read The Summoner and I really liked it. The Blood King and Dark Haven are on my shelf - unfortunately unread.

    Maybe you don't know but the fourth book of the series Dark Lady's Chosen will be released by end of December 2009. In case we can trust amazon.com, amazon.ca and amazon.de
    This are the ISBN numbers:
    ISBN-10: 184416831XISBN-13: 978-1844168316I found some more information here: Fantastic Fiction Dark Lady's Chosen

  2. This sounds like another great series that I have missed. I'll check it out and give it a try.

    Dottie :)

  3. ediFanoB thanks for the heads up about the fourth book, I revised the posting to include it. Gail Martin confirmed that there will be a blog tour to launch the next book.

    Dottie I think this is a very approachable series jammed with great characters and solid action. Hope you get a chance to give it a try.

  4. I usually stay as far away from zombies as I can but this does sound like a good series...

  5. Lady_tink this is a very approachable series. The zombies are undead but not the brain-eating variety :)


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