There is something about getting attached to an imaginary universe, and I believe this is happening to me in regards to Arvia and its lore. Hazelhearth Hires Heroes is the third book set in this mythical place, and despite me not typically being overly fond of fantasy stories, I am head over heels for this series, because I just love returning there. (I must mention that this one’s a standalone though! Although I very sincerely hope it will be continued as its own series.)
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★★★★★ 5 stars
How I read this:
free ebook copy from author
Arvia is a dangerous world full of magic beasts, gnomes, elves, some really evil merfolk, and all sorts of mythical creatures that are almost all exclusively larger than humans. Think of your typical RPG world, but make it more dangerous! Previously, the reader could visit Arvia through two books by D.H. Willison set there – Harpyness is Only Skin Deep Finding Your Harpy Place. Those two books are a little bit different from Hazelhearth Hires Heroes, because the vibe and the aim is slightly different. While the harpy books do have some adventuring, they’re more about interpersonal relationships and tend to be more philosophical. Meanwhile, Hazelhearth Hires Heroes is just some good old plain adventuring fun! I loved seeing Arvia through the lens of both of these stories. It made the reading experience more multi-faceted.
Hazelhearth Hires Heroes is set earlier than the first books about the Arvia world. I immediately loved that! The Melandrach empire was mentioned in the Tales of Arvia (the harpy books) series, but only in passing, as historical events. It was so cool to be able to delve into them in more detail.
The story starts out at Arvia and in our human world, but the human world is still in the early technological times – think Tesla coils and telegraphs. I just LOVED it. Our characters accidentally stumble into Arvia and get stuck there, of course – and have to make it in a very unwelcoming place.
However, their surroundings are somehow much friendlier than in the first books I read – they’re immediately taken in my a friendly armorer and his ranger friend. They become adventurers! (Well, not immediately. But they’re trying!)
An image of the cover of Hazelhearth Hires Heroes, on a PocketBook Color e-reader, with candy and necklaces around it, a kettle and a bouquet of dried flowers behind it; Photo by AvalinahsBooks
In the acknowledgements, the author mentioned that he wanted to show the history of the empire through the eyes or just regular people, rather than kings, knights or chosen ones. That’s usually the case with fantasy, and I think that’s why I often dislike it (it’s so aggrandized, isn’t it? Always with the chosen ones!). But here, we indeed had two simple people, stuck between a rock and a hard place during an exhausting war where nobody even remembers why it’s being fought anymore. They really do present a unique viewpoint. But at the same time, their own personal story about becoming adventurers, heroes is being told as well.
It was fun, fast paced and full of action. And not only that – I absolutely fell for the characters. This book isn’t one of those that has a main character – it has a sort of “main character party”. So we don’t even zoom in too much, rather we explore everyone’s feelings and what happens to them, and get to know them all. And you’d be surprised – you’ll probably get attached even to those who seemed incredibly uppity at the start of the story!
And finally, there’s something to be said about how this book will appeal to people who love Dungeons and Dragons. It’s a little bit of a tribute to the game – outside of regular RPG elements, one of the characters is designing a game. At one point he even sees elven dice, and what do you know – they’ve got a strange number of sides!
Honestly, there are so many Easter eggs for D&D fans, it’s great. My husband is an avid Dungeons and Dragons player, so when I was reading, I kept stopping and telling him to write down world-building ideas the games he DMs himself. I hope the author won’t mind! Hahah.Hazelhearth Hires Heroes is some good old adventuring fun! If you love RPG #fantasy and D&D, this book is for you: Click To Tweet
This was a really enjoyable story. It’s one of the first books I’ve read in the past month or two where I was genuinely engrossed and couldn’t wait to finish up my tasks of the day, just so I could sit down and read it. Hazelhearth Hires Heroes has been an unexpected treat and I truly hope there will be sequels!
I thank the author for giving me a free copy of the ebook in exchange to my honest review. This has not affected my opinion.
I’m Evelina and I blog about books that made an impression on me. I love middle grade, women’s, scifi and some literary too.