The Steel Road

The Ardent Halo, Book I

Fiction - Fantasy - Epic
441 Pages
Reviewed on 05/03/2018
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.J. Simmill for Readers' Favorite

The elves didn't believe in an afterlife; you were either dead or alive. So when Dreyah, the prophesied human/elf crossbreed whose death would spark war, was found murdered by some magical ritual, the thought of her returning had not been imagined. But death did not want her, yet. It was not her time, and thus it rejected her, sending her back to the living. Thoughts of the two bloods within her, giving her two lives, surfaced to explain away the strange phenomenon, but she had not been convinced. Dreyah knows she must avenge her murder, and seeks to find her place. She is both elf and human, and also the spark of war. She must choose a side, choose with which blood her loyalties lie.

The Steel Road by Edie James is the first book in The Ardent Halo series. It is a complex coming of age tale ripe with politics, agendas, deception, and magic, both made by machine and nature. Houses and factions are driven by their own beliefs, and the guidance of The Four and their chosen. But even those thought to be touched by the divine are not beyond manipulation. The Steel Road is immensely descriptive with impressive world building, along with myth, legend, history and lore. Magnificent scenery will leave vivid impressions, while alliances and agendas drive the complex threads of a very involved plot. This world is divided; elf, human, and the space between where war once raged. Each side is different, each side has its own levels of development, and the contrast makes for a fascinating transition in what I would have to call a steampunk high fantasy cross.

Engaging, immersive, and very much alive, this is a tale you won't soon forget. For readers who find it difficult to follow houses and alliances, there is a short comprehensive appendix at the end, ideal if you plan to read it over a few sittings and become hazy on some of the details. A strong first book in what promises to be a fascinating series.

Lit Amri

In The Steel Road (The Ardent Halo, Book I) by Edie James, a crossling named Dreyah (half elf-half human), was murdered for the power in her blood. Yet she is reborn, seeking both her and her mother’s murderer, and trying to find a way to stop prophetic deadly flames caused by her own death. Kennason, the foreign queen of Andanes, returns to her homeland of Cambria to heal her loneliness and seek comfort at her family’s home after the death of her second husband. When her ability of sorcery is discovered, she must protect her loved ones from the prejudice towards magic. Fate and blood connect Dreyah and Kennason as danger from the Old World looms over the land.

James' prose is excellent and has a nice flair for this epic fantasy. That said, it took me a while to familiarize myself with the timing of the characters’ flashbacks, as the transitions between present and past in the narrative are rather subtle. There are many characters, which was hard to follow at first, but James justifies each character's role well and ties up all the strands that make up the complex plot while not detracting from the story premise.

A story is only as good as its protagonists, and James succeeds in creating a main cast of characters that are alive, believably flawed, and engaging. Family bonds, friendship, love, politics, prejudice, and a sense of belonging are deftly interlaced in the storyline. There are some violent scenes, but they are mild and won’t deter sensitive readers from reading. Overall, The Steel Road is a heartfelt tale, one of the more multifaceted and satisfying epic fantasies I have read recently and I look forward for Book II.

Christian Sia

The Steel Road is the first and stunning entry in The Ardent Halo series by Edie James, a novel that will grip fans of epic fantasy. This is a story that unites two worlds, the ancient and the new. The ancient is a mythical world with different realms, and it’s in one of these worlds that a human-elf is wronged by humans. She is Dreyah and she will be reborn in another life with revenge in her heart, having been refused entry into heaven. Kennason is given to a foreign prince as a gesture of peace, but she will know no happiness until she returns to Cambria, her homeland, a place where magic is now outlawed. But when she is kidnapped by bad wizards, everything changes and dread truths begin to emerge. Cambria is under threat from ancient enemies and Kennason must find her destiny by unveiling hidden mysteries of the Kingdom’s past. Follow this sensational story and discover what an exiled queen may have in common with a murdered teenager, and if the destiny of Cambria can be altered this time?

Some stories are very straightforward so that one can summarize the plot in two sentences, but not The Steel Road. This one is intelligently plotted with subplots and unexpected twists that enhance the reading experience and create a powerful sense of suspense for the reader. The characters are well-imagined and somewhat enigmatic. The setting is well-imagined, too, and it is interesting to notice the intersection between the two parallel worlds. Edie James’ writing is gorgeous and the use of vivid descriptions and plot-driven dialogues adds more entertainment for the reader. The narrative is skillfully done and the voice comes out very clearly. It’s fast-paced and gripping, a story that offers readers a wonderful place of escape.

Romuald Dzemo

The Steel Road by Edie James is the first book in The Ardent Halo series and it’s a beautiful promise of a great ride for readers, a story that features secrets, a realm on the brink of peril, and extraordinary characters with important missions to accomplish. The plot is intelligently done and readers will be transported into outlandish worlds, encountering the destiny of a creature, an elf and human hybrid, and the story of a Kennason, a young princess, who was once given to a neighboring king as a gesture of peace. But the past always catches up with the present and the truth comes to light. When Kennason finally returns home and her people are in danger, will she accept her destiny? And how does her destiny connect with Dreyah, who is reborn and is out for revenge?

Edie James not only imagines an ingenious plot but succeeds brilliantly in its execution, making readers love her characters and surprising them with plot elements that make for an enjoyable read. My interest was captured by the author’s deft use of suspense and her ability to shift from one plot line to the next without leaving the reader confused. The writing is tantalising and the setting is done as a well-accomplished canvas, laden with vivid images and sights to delight the reader’s imagination. The Steel Road is a rollicking ride and the conflict is phenomenal and managed as a tool to drive the plot forward. Here is an epic fantasy that is well-plotted, fast-paced, balanced, and exotic. I couldn’t stop reading from the moment I opened the first page.

Jamie Michele

The Steel Road by Edie James is the first of two books in The Ardent Halo series, with its second, The Vatic Confluence, already released for a complete epic fantasy. This is an elven-human saga based on the premise of war between dual worlds, culminating centuries later with the murder of a prophesied hybrid named Dreyah, a crossling, half elf and half human. But it is not yet her time: “You were never gone, Daughter…simply reborn in that room.” Dreyah knew Oran referenced the stronghold, not the white room. “Two bloods, two lives." And so begins the journey for revenge in a story intertwined with that of Kennason, who herself must uncover answers surrounding a past she cannot change for a future that remains uncertain.

The Steel Road by Edie James is a beautifully depicted adventure fantasy. The world building is exceptional, although the introductory maps are definitely helpful as readers learn to navigate a new realm. James' writing style is elegant and classical in tone, which took me about a half-second to adjust to before I was off running with the story. The characters are layered and wonderfully developed, which is vital in a plot that is deeply character driven. What I genuinely loved was the dialogue, which balances nicely between realism and the antiquated discourse expected in a fantasy sphere (ie: “Nothing good ever comes through the Gate.” Rhys tipped his head toward the white-capped peaks that were visible above the outer wall. “Nothing but death permeates the Rusthorns.”). I'd recommend The Steel Road to readers who adore excellent forays into elven fantasy worlds, and I look forward to reading The Vatic Confluence.

Peggy Jo Wipf

The Steel Road: The Ardent Halo, Book I presents two women whose births are woven with secrets. Kennason was gifted as a bride, but it becomes apparent that someone wanted her hidden away. By whom is the answer she continues to seek. After watching two husbands die and ruling a harsh land, Kennason comes back as a bold woman refusing to be intimidated by a king, queen, or wizard.

Then we have Dreyah, a crossling between human and elf. Though she grew up loved, there was always the prophecy that one day her death would symbolize the ending of the world. She is fearless as she accompanies a group to Udia, searching to find the mysterious passage that has been unlocked to permit monsters into their realms. She realized after the first time she died that she had nothing to lose; now she is determined to reset the path her bloodletting had caused. Dreyah finds that the conflict of belonging to no race is what torments her continually, even if she loves both her families.

Edie James slowly brings two worlds together as a foretold prophecy comes to pass. As The Steel Road unfolds, there are tales of the past to explain the present. I found Edie James to be a complex writer, one who is able to spin a story within a story. I love how she gives the characters depth, while explaining one secret before presenting another riddle. I relished each word as the story switched from Kennason’s world to Dreyah’s group, though their meeting is expected in the sequel. With the numerous characters, realms, and cities, I found the appendix very useful.