Review by Aamna Rehman
First and foremost, I love the title. I think it fits the themes represented in the story perfectly. It also is a simple way to tell us that the characters, although they think of themselves as heroes, are flawed. They suffer from moral conundrums and prejudices instilled within the fabric of their society. Of course, some of these characters strive to gain power while others strive for justice but none of them are without a moral gray area. This dynamic adds a complexity that made this book enjoyable.
At first, I didn't like Margery because she seemed too unlikeable and power-hungry. But as the story goes on, you start to peel back her layers and discover her emotions. In particular in the second half of the book, I felt more attached to the characters, even side characters like Rem, Darrien, and Toothless. The intriguing history between them added an extra layer that made me want to know more. I wouldn't necessarily call them realistic, but their vulnerability and fears made them easy to get attached to.
I also especially adored Toothless. I appreciated that a deaf character was given appropriate representation as an essential character. His disability wasn't holding him back, and the casual acceptance of it felt great. Diversity and acceptance are important elements of any book and Almost Heroes had both.
The pace of the story made it hard to put down. However, not all structural elements of this story were perfect. The qualms I had were about the way the information was delivered about world-building. It didn’t deliver the information soon enough. We had to wait to get to around 30% of the book to finally comprehend how the politics and the system of this world works. Looking back, this wasn’t a huge hindrance to my enjoyment of the book, but it definitely could've been done better.
Other than that, overall it was a really enjoyable read. The exploration of the themes of humanity, of who decides what is right and what is wrong, and the limits even righteous people can cross for their purpose- with the added personal stakes of the characters- make it an altogether hit with the fantasy readers.
As for the ending, I found it a tad underwhelming. It begins with a high-stakes chase scene, but I just felt that we weren't dropped off at a high enough point to be on the edge of our seats for the next installment.
Some standout moments: My favorite moments were the whole interrogation scene with Rem and Margery. That scene was so emotionally charged, and so many things were revealed. We find out just how vicious Rem can be when provoked and I love that about him. He targeted the biggest chink in Margery's armor, and she couldn't even deny him. They were both so vulnerable and exposed in that scene. Chefs kiss!
Review by Arya Fong
In Almost Heroes, Mar’Sai Mitcham tells the story of unlikely heroes in a world where acts of heroism come few and far between. With questions about morality, races with supernatural abilities, and an assassin with a good heart, Almost Heroes is a highly satisfying high fantasy read for anyone with an itch for team building. Though the world might seem a little hard to comprehend at first, these questions only hook you and drag you deeper as the story moves forwards.
Margery Silverwither is more than ready to join the Heroes Guild, if only to fulfill the destiny only she knows she has. Her hopes are dashed when she meets her teammates Zunuha and Toothless—both of whom she dislikes immediately. When their team, led by captain Mazrur, is sent to protect Lord Heel and his family from being murdered, the three of them must learn to work together in order to survive the massacre that awaits them.
Something to be loved immediately about Almost Heroes is how Margery, Zunuha, and Toothless are introduced. Immediately, each receives their own aptly named chapter, revealing them to be the main characters. Multi-perspective stories can be scarce in fantasy, and it’s rarer for a book to tell such varying perspectives one after the other. It’s different—refreshing, even.
That’s not the only refreshing thing about Almost Heroes. It is uncommon in literature to find an unlikeable chosen one, but that’s exactly what makes Margery such a compelling character. She’s rude, proud, more than a little classist—and yet she is the only one who can sense the imminent darkness. This not only humbles the character in a way, but brings an extraordinary amount of depth to her, one that steadily grows on the reader.
Margery isn’t the only character with depth, and it seems that character is where Mar’Sai Mitcham shines. All of the characters are brimming with depth: from the assassin Remsys’s reluctance to kill, to Mazrur’s fierce protectiveness over his pupils, to Zunuha’s infuriating grief over a dead friend. All of the interactions feel as real as can be and when certain characters are together, their dynamic is enough for a sequel all on its own.
By certain characters, I mean the main three. Margery, Zunuha, and Toothless are a delight to read whenever they are in a scene together since they are all incredibly different. They’re written with different views and different solutions to the same problems. While miscommunication often stems from their interactions, you can also begin to see what role each character will play in the long run. Not only to the world, but to each other.
A true highlight is when Captain Mazrur confronts the trio on their issues. Miscommunication is a familiar enemy in literature, so reading about how three characters get reprimanded for their lack of trust in one another felt like a win. It wasn’t a blame game but a learning lesson for all those involved, and one I felt very proud of the Captain for initiating. If only all characters could receive the same treatment.
With its medieval-like towns, action-packed battles, and magic spells, Almost Heroes paints a story that is so vivid it’s reminiscent of a film. As the story moves forward, with the assassins making short work of the forces protecting Lord Heel and his family, you start to understand more of what Mar’Sai Mitcham has created. Despite some extremely captivating plot lines left unanswered, they fall short of the world that slowly builds to surround you—not unlike how the heroes come to be trapped in Lord Heel’s castle. Fantasy is notorious for sucking you in with a world beyond the pages and Almost Heroes is no exception.
In conclusion, Mar’Sai Mitcham’s Almost Heroes is a story worth reading—for its difficult heroism, its profound characters, and a world you will long to be a part of.
Review by Valerie Caballero
"Nineteen-year-old Margery Silverwither had been called crazy most of her life, due to her rather bold claim that she was the Mornbringer - the hero of legends fated to confront a great evil and bring about the dawn. Her village laughed at her. Her father called her a fool. But she knew the darkness was coming, and if no one would believe her, then she had to prove them wrong. The Night Queen's army has invaded the Sansish kingdom. The land is swept in a sea of blood, war spreads like the plague, and it seems no one can put a stop to it. What better challenge could Margery ask for? Under the tutelage of the kingdom’s greatest heroes, Margery prepares to throw herself in battle after bloody battle against the Night Queen’s forces. For only in the rage of battle could the power of the Mornbringer awaken. Let the non-believers scoff, let the fools have their laugh. It wouldn’t be long before she was laughing back."
In some way we all grow up and get that feeling that says that we are made for something big. Margery wasn't the exception, in this book we immediately get connected with her and her way of thinking until it all changes with a new point of view. But before getting to that we must highlight the quality of the author's writing, the way in which he was able to introduce us to the skin of the character with a few lines and how the descriptions (which in my opinion) were perfect and that I could simply describe as incomparable to any other book I have read so far. Now if we move to the different points of view we can highlight those of Zunuda and the Ishtarian. Zunuha shows as a crude and poor reality, the heroes were in a desperate situation but they still waited for a new assignment without losing any hope and some of the people dreamt to be considered one of those desperate heroes from the stories they heard as kids.
Moving to a new point, I cannot leave the language aside, and I am not really complaining, sometimes it is necessary to use certain expressions to create a more informal or urban environment. The truth is, who talks with their friends using complex words? In conclusion the language couldn't be more urban, with those expressions we barely see anymore, but in action movies. The only thing that I have to say is how much I really liked this book and the narration, dialogues and description. I could feel the enchantments, their way of working and the place the characters were at in a determined scene.
People would believe this has little importance or is not difficult, but to create a bond between a character and the reader and then destroy it because of how the main character thinks is rare since this is the first time I felt it as a reader.
Finally, I would recommend this book to those who love urban fantasy because the story it contains is simply different from what we have heard before and the world in which it takes place has so many details that we can almost confuse it with a world that could actually exist.