Seven Forges – Seven Forges #1 – James A. Moore
Release date: September 24th, 2013
Publisher: Angry Robot
Age Group: Adult
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Captain Merros Dulver is the first in many lifetimes to find a path beyond the great mountains known as the Seven Forges and encounter, at last, the half-forgotten race who live there. And it would appear that they were expecting him. As he returns home, bringing an entourage of strangers with him, he starts to wonder whether his discovery has been such a good thing. For the gods of this lost race are the gods of war, and their memories of that far-off cataclysm have not faded.
The people of Fellein have live with legends for many centuries. To their far north, the Blasted Lands, a legacy of an ancient time of cataclysm, are vast, desolate and impassable, but that doesn’t stop the occasional expedition into their fringes in search of any trace of the ancients who had once lived there… and oft-rumored riches.
Seven Forges is a book that had been on my to-read list for a long, long time. I don’t know why I kept skipping it, because it turned out to be a great read. It took some time to really get the story going, but the explosive ending blew away almost all the little kinks this book had and made this a 4-star book instead of a 3-star book.
The protagonist, Captain Merros Dulver initially comes across as a nervous, rather sarcastic guy. He has definitely had quite some time in the armed forces, but this time he embarks on his first real mission. He is sent by the Emperor of Fellein to explore the Blasted Lands and what lays beyond. During this mission he’s about to get his first glimpse of real battle and the mysterious world beyond the wastelands. I liked him immediately. Of course, Merros and his soldiers soon find themselves in a dire situation, but luckily they are saved by a mysterious rider who seems to be from the lands beyond the great mountains, the Seven Forges. A race long forgotten and thought extinct, it seems like a lucky coincidence they meet. But it really isn’t. The mysterious rider that saved them stays cloaked in mystery, literally and figuratively speaking. He keeps his appearance secret, but the grey skin and his Silver Hand hint at something completely unknown to the people of Fellein. Their saviour leads them to his people, the Sa’ba Taalor, where Merros is supposed to meet his Destiny, predicted by the Daxar Taalor, their Gods. His reaction to this news is one of the reasons I like his character so much: he panics, uses sarcasm to lash out at everyone around him, but still bravely faces what’s coming.
In the middle of all of this we’re introduced to another character. A boy, Andover, gets attacked in the streets by the City Guard as punishment for looking at the beautiful girl he’s smitten with. One of the guard has claimed her as his own and wants to teach Andover a lesson. In the attack Andover loses both his hand. The girl, Tega, turns out to be an apprentice of the powerful sorcerer who is also the main advisor of the Emperor. She takes pity on him and brings him to her Master. It seems like this storyline isn’t really going anywhere for quite some time, but later Andover meets with the Sa’ba Taalor who have come back to the Empire with Captain Dulver and this might change his life forever. I absolutely loved reading about Andover and Tega. It isn’t your typical romantic storyline, but it is still very dynamic and so real.
Moore’s writing style is very to the point, which makes this a fast-paced read. He describes this clash of cultures wonderfully. Both have to get used to the customs of the other and it’s a veritable journey of discovery. Diplomatically it’s quite difficult, because they have to be careful with every word they say and every move they make, to prevent starting an unwanted war.
Theology is also a very important aspect in this story. The Sa’ba Taalor are very religious and even though Fellein has its own Gods, they are not at all as devout as the Sa’ba Taalor. This leads to astonishment and a lot of misinterpretations. I liked how Captain Merros does his best to get to know these people and their religion, to understand what drives them.
Not only the political and theological are central in this book. There’s a lot of action, with lots of gruesome and amazing fight scenes, especially because the Sa’ba Taalor lead a very militaristic life. For example, they don’t believe in a court to decide where justice should be dealt out and who should be punished for a crime. They make their own weapons, grow their own crops and fight for their own honour, the honour of their people and that of their Deities.
The only thing that kind of rubbed me the wrong way was the constant attention to the beautiful women. It felt like in every chapter there was at least one woman who got checked out and who made the male characters lose their mind because of their voluptuous body. I totally loved the role of the women among the Sa’ba Taalor, equal to the men, just as impressive in combat and taking up leading positions, but it somehow got diminished by how Merros looked at them. Once he got over his surprise of how women fit in to the Sa’ba Taalor society, he just seemed to focus on his lust for them.
The ending left me baffled. The pace just sped up drastically, with one shocking revelation after another, leaving me mystified and full of adrenaline. Those last few pages lifted this book to an even higher level, making me extremely anxious and excited to read the next books in the series.