A Humble Heart tells the Tolkien-esque tale of an evil and dark race which threatens the existence of elves, dwarves, and humans. Clese and Henty are the last two surviving humans, from the Land of Gemdal, and bring news to the leader of the Elves. Thus begins their quest to the north to take back their land.
I have to admit that this novel took me quite a while to get through. It read very similar to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it's clear VanderMeulen has created a deep and developed world with its own lore and history. Much of it seemed to drag on, and felt a bit cluttered. Some scenes didn't add anything to the plot itself, but were there more for story telling purposes, which is is appropriate for this style of writing. Not quite my taste, but still quite rich.
The ending left a little to be desired after such a grand scape of a novel, but when all finished the three volumes I can see coming together well. It was a bit "oh, really? It's finished? Hm."
For the most part, the characters are interesting and familiar in a fantasy novel. I enjoyed how everything already seemed to be built, rather than having it all build up in the narrative. The cultures were already there and we just happened to stumble in at a specific point in their history. I really appreciate that in books, making me feel like the characters and races are part of our own world and make me think "well, yeah, doesn't everyone know this about Elveran?" I would have loved to see a map of the world, but I know it's not always possible. With something on this scale, it's always nice to see exactly where the party is travelling and it helps give a sense of how long things will take.
Fans of Tolkien and epic fantasy will quickly fall in love with VanderMeulen's writing style, and most will find the concept familiar and relatable. Overall, the book was well done and is a wonderful start to the Dark World series.