A few years ago, I attended Armageddon in Dunedin. A small convention, there wasn’t a huge amount going on and I don’t recall spending more than a couple of hours there. I did, however, stop by Russell Meek’s booth, where is he was selling copies of his first novel, The Madness of Hallen. He was also taking pre-orders for the sequel.
Three years later, I’d still not picked them up. But after learning that the third volume of the series was soon being released, I finally began to read them.
But honestly? I don’t even want to talk about the book right now. Well, I do, but there’s something I want to talk about first. Russell Meek opted to go down the self-publishing route, but let me tell you, he pulled out all the stops. This book? It’s so incredibly well made. Like, this thing is heavy. And not just because of the book’s size. The pages feel expensive, man. It feels so polished. Honestly, I was just so impressed.
Anyway. Onto the contents. The Madness of Hallen is the first of the Khalada Stone series. It’s a fantasy novel. Not my expertise, but let’s not get too tied up in that fact.
The novel starts off a little slow. Fair enough. It’s fantasy. Fantasy always needs a little time to create a world, y’know? There’s building involved. But eventually things get underway. We get pulled into Orhl and Faerl’s world. There’s a bit of romance (which I totally loved), a bit more action (which was great), and a lot of magic (which was super exciting).
Orhl and Faerl have extraordinary powers, linked to ancient stones. Combined, these ancient stones are the mind of al-Din. But, of course, the mind of the Sword of the Faith is desired by many. It all makes for a pretty thrilling story.
I loved how Meek easily introduced a whole host of characters, carefully juggling perspectives. For me, the transitions were smooth and I found the story, though complex and filled to the brim, easy enough to follow.
The magical elements were, to begin with, a touch confusing. I didn’t always know how exactly it was working or why exactly it was necessary. But as the book progressed, things slowly began to make more sense. And as things made more sense, things became more interesting. While there wasn’t a lot of character development, the world building was really well done, and I feel like the series has a lot of potential.
I already have its sequel, A Brother’s Bond, sitting on my shelf. I’m excited to see how the series progresses! It’s always exciting to see self-published authors doing well, and I whole-heartedly hope that Meek gets the success he deserves.
Let me know if you’ve read this series! Do you make an effort to support self-published authors? Are there any recommendations out there?