by Palmer Pickering
Genre: Epic Fantasy/Heroic Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery
Teleo is a retired soldier descended from Mages, who were cast out of power generations ago. After years of war and sorrow, he wants nothing more than to live a quiet life on his farm and work his stonemason’s craft.
His wife and daughter had been murdered during a war raid several years earlier and his young son stolen by the enemy side. He spent years unsuccessfully searching for his son and returned home broken-hearted. At the local castle, he comes upon a war orphan stolen by his side from the enemy and rescues him from abuse, adopting him as his foster son.
Teleo is working at the castle when he finds himself in the middle of a coup. This launches a journey to protect his new family, uncover the secrets of the ancient ways, and reclaim the magic of the Mages.
A cast of lovable characters:
Teleo – A gritty warrior who would do anything for you, unless you cross those he loves, then you will meet his blade.
Dinsmora – A reclusive herbalist who weaves shadows.
The fosterling – Orphan who forms a family and softens the toughest of hearts.
The animals – Characters in their own right who carry burdens and bring glory.
Magic was outlawed generations ago but lingers in the blood of the kingdoms. There were good reasons it was outlawed and reasons it must rise again.
SPFBO9 – Our Reviews
Review by Isabelle from The Shaggy Shepherd’s Book Reviews
Heliotrope is a book that’s been on my radar for a while so I’m glad SPFBO gave me the excuse to prioritize it. It’s a beautifully put together book with a great map, some small illustrations, and artful chapter headers.
I read a different book by this author last year and I was stunned to see the difference in writing styles between the two. They both work well for their genre and story but I wasn’t expecting such a big shift in voice and was really impressed by that.
There are two major things to point out that the author did really well with this series: the world-building and the characters. Many times, I will like a book because of one of those things but Pickering manages to shine with both here!
The characters are very much their own people in terms of personality, history, emotions, and goals and aspirations. The story is told from the point of view of one character so his development is, of course, what we see the most but there is still so much to see for the other characters as well. Their growth and transformations based on experiences and other outside and inside influences (I don’t want to go into too much detail here and spoil something) were some of the highlights of the book for me. The teenagers especially stood out to me. Sometimes brave, sometimes moody, they had a great range of emotions, and I felt that they were well-written with their age and development (and the ups and downs that come along with that) always kept in mind. They could be unpredictable sometimes in ways that worked really well.
The level of detail that went into the world-building was incredible as well. It was really easy for me to picture the surroundings, especially the castles, which were a very fun part of the book for me. The way she included animal characters with such strong personalities themselves added to the charm of the world as well.
The different magical aspects were very intriguing. I loved learning about them separately as well as together with their contrasts and similarities. Seeing them influence the world and characters in their own ways was a fun aspect to follow. They felt creative without being too unfamiliar so she was able to give great examples of their uses without the danger of over-explaining things that would risk taking the reader out of the flow of the story.
Pickering’s writing skills really shine in this book. It felt like she knew exactly which details to include for the surroundings, feelings, and actions happening to make it sound absolutely beautiful. On an individual sentence level, I really enjoyed that.
On a bigger level though, I also sometimes struggled with it just a little bit. There were times where I was hanging on to every word and then there were times where my mind would start to drift away. I realized that the book worked better for me in small doses where I could really appreciate the details each time without getting weary of them.
Despite these beautiful details, all together, it felt like it took a really long time for things to start moving again after each major event in the book. I sometimes struggled to keep my excitement going until the next big thing happening and think this is where the book might lose some readers along the way. The main character also seemed really good at everything he attempted, which took a little bit of the excitement away after a while. I actually think that Heliotrope could make for a really good novella series if the major events were split into multiple books as both of my issues with this book would have less of an impact in that format, in my opinion.
Overall though, I think this is a really well written book that I’m glad I moved up on my TBR. I’m a big fan of the found family trope, which really shone here. The beautiful writing style and attention to detail has me looking forward to what the author will be writing next and I’m happy to recommend this title as a semifinalist to my team.