Review: The Greatwood Portal (The Heroes of Spira #3) by Dorian Hart

The end of the world is a week away, and only Horn’s Company can stop it. All they have to do is find and rescue Ivellios, who’s been kidnapped by the Black Circle to fulfill their prophecy of freeing the all-powerful Naradawk Skewn from his prison world.

Meanwhile, Morningstar must ready her team of Ellish dream warriors to battle the vicious Aktallian Dreamborn, who continues to harass Abernathy and the archmagi. And Aravia must master the Crosser’s Maze, the most powerful and complex magical artifact ever created.

What could go wrong?

According to the goblin shaman Irligg, Horn’s Company is destined both to succeed and to fail in their quest to save the world of Spira. Kibi always says there’s no such thing as destiny, but as the forces of Charagan prepare for Naradawk’s invasion, there’s a hidden thumb on the scales of fate…

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My Review

In this, the third episode in the five book epic fantasy series, The Heroes of Spira, we find found family, plenty of magic, adventure, bravery, romance, tragedy, mathematical torture and fabulous storytelling!

By now, the members of Horn’s Company feel familiar and it is great to see their personalities develop with each book. In The Greatwood Portal they are based once more at the archmage Abernathy’s Greenhouse, having been teleported out of the Crossers’ Maze at the end of Book 2. They are even more dedicated in their goal to defeat the Big Bad, evil sorcerer Naradawk Skewn, as the time of his prophesied escape from prison is fast approaching. The company is no longer traveling all together, having split into smaller groups.

Ivellios has been kidnapped by the cult of the Black Circle, who believe he is the key to freeing their leader, the aforementioned Naradawk.

Morningstar is dream-walking to warn her religious Sisters of Ell of the mortal danger which is facing them from Aktallian (Naradawk’s lieutenant), who is trying to pick them off while they sleep and who they must fight and defeat within the dreamscape. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story – being able to affect events in real life through dreams is a really cool concept.

Aravia is traveling in her mind through the Crosser’s Maze in order to learn as much about its secrets as possible from one of its previous Keepers, her aim being to seal up the portal through which Naradawk plans to escape, while Tor keeps an eye on her in the real world.

Meanwhile Dranko, Ernie and Certain Step are trying to find Ivellios, in order to rescue him. Each of the separate strands is expertly woven together eventually, as we approach the inevitable, exciting and heart-wrenching climax of the book.

Horn’s Company is much tighter knit now, having spent a lot of time together and shared many hardships and victories. A romantic relationship has developed between Tor and Aravia, which has changed her character quite substantially. She is now a much warmer, softer, more tolerant person than we saw at the beginning of the first book. Tor has dedicated himself to Aravia’s protection and may have lost some of his hot-headed impetuousness in the process.

Dranko and Morningstar, the two misfit outsiders within their chosen religions, are also becoming closer, having started off mistrusting and disliking one another.

I enjoyed getting to know the butler, Eddings, better in this book and continued to enjoy Aravia’s relationship with her cat, Pewter, with whom she can telepathically communicate. There wasn’t enough of Kibi communicating with rocks in this book for my liking! He didn’t seem to have much of a role for most of the book, which was a shame as he has been one of my favourite characters. He does play a significant part in the cliffhanger ending, so I can only assume he will be more present in the next book.

I felt that Ernie was also somewhat underused, being relegated to Dranko’s fighting sidekick during Ivellios’ rescue, which was a shame as his wholesomeness was something I really enjoyed in the previous books.

The world of Spira is extremely expansive and in this book it only gets larger. I felt a little lost at times and couldn’t remember why the characters had been to places that were name-checked. Maybe a list of places with their role in the story would be helpful to readers who haven’t read the previous books for quite a while.

The early part of the book seemed fairly slow-paced as storylines from previous books were reiterated and I felt like the book could have benefitted from a dedicated “story so far” section, since such a lot has happened to these characters over the space of the last two books! However, once the action kicked off the pace increased and the story became a lot more exciting and more enjoyable.

There was a lack of surprising monsters/creatures in this book – a feature of the previous two which I really enjoyed. There were only really two new monsters this time, one of which captured my imagination better than the other.

The Greatwood Portal ends on a rather large cliffhanger which will no doubt entice readers to continue with book 4, The Infinite Tower and the recently released final installment, The Adversary’s Hand and I would encourage fans of rpg style games such as D & D to dive into this series as you will undoubtedly love it!

I was lucky enough to be sent paperbacks of the first 4 books in this series by the author. Thank you Dorian Hart! My review is honest and my opinions are my own.

About the Author

Dorian Hart is the author of the recently completed Heroes of Spira epic fantasy series, which includes The Ventifact Colossus, The Crosser’s Maze, The Greatwood Portal, The Infinite Tower and The Adversary’s Hand. He also wrote the interactive science fiction novella Choice of the Star Captain for Choice of Games.

In a bygone century, Dorian graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in creative writing. This led circuitously to a 20-year career as a video game designer, where he contributed to many award-winning titles including Thief, System Shock, System Shock 2, and BioShock. 

Now he writes books in his Boston-area study, serves as the stay-at-home dad for his two daughters, and happily allows his wife to drag him off on various wilderness adventures.

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