Hero Grown (Seeds of Destiny #2 by Andy Livingstone

herogrownHero Grown is the second in series by Andy Livingstone that got off to a strong start with Hero Born.  I guess you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out from the titles that the first and second books have brought to us a character who is gradually being forged into a hero.  I must confess that I enjoy this type of tale.  We have a prophecy, we have a young boy who suffered terribly with the loss of everything he knew, thrown into slavery and yet overcoming adversity and managing to find friends against the odds.  The latest edition takes that story further yet again when the hero of the tale is once again thrown into the most dire of situations and then, when you think things can get no worse – well, they do!

So, I’m not going to recap the first story and I will give an obligatory warning that this review may contain spoilers for the first in series.

At the start of this story Brann, the hero in the making, is travelling to the capital of the Empire with a number of characters that we met in the last book.   They aim to warn the Emperor of the cult they uncovered at the conclusion of the last story – a cult headed by one called Loku.  Now, at this stage of the review the next point could be considered a spoiler – however, given the description on the jacket I don’t think so.  Basically, Loku is the Emperor’s spymaster and not only does the Emperor rely heavily on him but it seems has been forewarned of this visit by Lord Einar and his companions and in fact believes it to be an assassination attempt.  As you can imagine, all hell is let loose,  A couple of the company die swiftly, a couple are taken hostage, there is a bold escape and the remaining two are taken into slavery once more.  Brann and Grakk, the other captive, are taken to a gladiatorial school to be prepared for a fight to the death!  Of course, nobody really expects Brann to survive but yet again his luck holds out.  His natural ability to take in a situation and make the most of what is available under pressure come to the fore.  And, for a brief time, following his success at the death match, and the fact that the Emperor virtually forgets of his existence, he spends a period of time at the school that can almost be considered happy.  I certainly enjoyed this element of the story and found it really entertaining.  Then, without warning it seems that Brann has once again come to the attention of certain others and is once again expected to fight to the death – the stakes are much higher this time however.

Accompanying the story we are made privy to another voice.  One who speaks with others and influences Brann’s future, seeking to shape him into the kind of man who can fulfil the prophecy.  Unfortunately for Brann, this shaping involves a lot more hardship.  He finds himself thrown to the fighting pits beneath the City where the only rule – is that there are no rules.  All fights are to the death and after a few months of living such an existence Brann is slowly becoming a feral fighting machine – with very little humanity left inside.

Seeds of Destiny is proving to be a very enjoyable story – a coming of age tale with a young protagonist slowly growing into his own destiny

As with the first book the writing is clever and the attention to detail really good.  The storyline is really entertaining, gladiatorial fights, pit fights, streets beneath the city, escapes, quests, Egyptian style cities hidden deep in the desert – there is a lot going on and plenty to entertain the reader.

In terms of criticisms – I don’t really think I had much to be honest, I think I would have preferred a little more witty banter now and again and, even though Brann does suffer so terribly I did at one point wonder about whether some of his abilities felt as though they came a little bit too speedily.  But, those brief points aside this was a very enjoyable read, plenty of action and adventure and with a good pace that gathers momentum and delivers plenty of tension.

Seeds of Destiny delivers the type of story that I love to read in that it shows a character developing slowly and allows me to watch their progress.  It also brings a good supporting cast of characters and, in a fantasy world where the dark and grim (which I admit I love) can be prohibitive to a young adult audience I think this is a perfect adventure.

I look forward to reading the next step in Brann’s journey very much.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

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Hero Born by Andy Livingstone

Posted On 1 June 2015

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Hero Born is the first book in the Seeds of Destiny Trilogy by Andy Livingstone which brings to us a young boy, just on the cusp of manhood, who on one horrible day loses everything he holds dear.  His family are murdered, his home destroyed and his freedom taken when he is captured and thrown aboard a ship sailing to distant lands where he will be sold into slavery.

Hero Born has a coming of age type of feel to it, plenty of action and is a solid first instalment to the series.

The story starts out with a look at village life.  The local boys/young men are competing in a team game (akin to early rugby maybe) with a neighbouring village.  This is where we are first introduced to Brann and come to realise that in spite of his diminutive stature he’s a tough little nut who refuses to stay beaten.  Meanwhile, a stranger watches the games, well dressed, well armed and relatively unnoticed.

At the conclusion of the games and returning home with his brother the two notice armed men sneaking through the woods obviously planning on attacking the village. From there things spiralled downhill quickly – the village was massacred and Brann, whilst attempting to escape, was captured and thrown aboard a ship heading to distant lands to become a slave.

During the trip Brann’s fortune continually fluctuates – he manages to capture the attention of the ship’s soothsayer or wise woman who provides him with a strange prophecy and thereby draws the attention of the captain and also the anger and jealousy of one of the warriors.  Eventually, following pirate attack, he becomes a replacement galley slave thus sealing his future.

In terms of the setting we have a pseudo mediaeval period.  People use carts and horses and live fairly basic lives.  Bow and arrow and sword are the typical weapons of choice.  During boat travel we go from Brann’s home – which has a maybe UK/Scottish type feel to one more akin to Norway with cold temperatures, seasons where the sun barely puts in an appearance and viking type warriors are the order of the day.

The characters.  The main one is obviously Brann and over the course of the story we begin to understand that something is different about him, not only does he have a prophecy foretold but he seems to have the luck of the Gods not to mention a tough skull  The other main characters are Gerens and Grakk, Brann’s onboard mates and fellow rowers and then two additional friends that he becomes attached to in Hakon and Konall.  I quite liked the characters, particularly Konall who starts off as a rather arrogant and generally misunderstood and disliked character but goes on to disprove that first impression.  They both go on something of an adventure together where they have to learn to trust each other in order to survive.  I also found Grakk very interesting and would definitely like to learn more of his story.

In terms of the writing – let’s just say that Mr Livingstone is very thorough!  There is plenty of detail about everything whether that be the life of a slave or paige, fighting, weapons and the like.  I actually liked the writing but had a couple of criticisms.  Particularly toward the start, there was a little bit of repetition where sometimes I almost felt I was reading the same or very similar sentence twice.  This did taper off.  I would also say that the dialogue could have been sharpened a little. Plus, I’m not going to deny that in spite of the action it did take me 20/30% of the story to get truly into the novel.  In fact it really kicked off for me towards the end of the first journey over water. In fairness I think this could probably have been cut a little, I wouldn’t say that the length put me off reading but it might deter some readers and I feel it could have been shortened without any detriment effect.

Anyway, the upshot is I thought this was an enjoyable first instalment with a good ending.  We have a decent plot, savage baddies and an evil scheming snake in the grass living amidst them all.  I would say it has a YA feel and is a good start to an action/adventure/hero type story.

Now, do I discuss the elephant in the room??  Yes.  I couldn’t help making a rather obvious comparison to Abercrombie’s Half a King and I’m sure that others will make the same connection.  There are certainly similarities – both about heros in the making, set in similar types of world, the main characters become galley slaves, make friends where least expected, etc.  But, whilst I can’t deny there are similarities in terms of those elements I don’t think it extends to the overall story arc. I think it’s probably just a little unfortunate that this story comes so closely on the back of Half a King so comparisons are probably inevitable.  Like I said though, I don’t think this story is going in the same direction.

I received a copy of this from the publishers through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.