Impending doom. Certain war after a devastating catastrophe. The rights of passage of a young man into adulthood. All these and more are left up for grabs at the end of Seven Forges by James A. Moore. The end of this book was a freight train rocketing full speed, straight towards a ruined bridge. You hung on for dear life and as the last paragraph ended you were still hanging on, white knuckled.
Moore does a fantastic job of building worlds and characters in Seven Forges as we hop on board the train that is about to meet its doom. Merros Dulver, leader of a team of explorers and mercenaries hired to map out the mysterious lands known as the Seven Forges, is likeable and honorable. An ex-soldier now looking for the highest bounties, Merros is respected by his comrades and his new allies alike. Along the way his team discovers the Sa’ba Taalor a warrior race who has been isolated from the rest of civilization. Merros befriends Drask Silverhand, a representative of the Sa’ba Taalor. Drask is a satisfying brutish character with a silver, mechanical hand that has been magically attached in place of his original hand. Merros and Drask lead their respective groups back to Merros’ home land to meet the emperor. Throughout the book, we are always on the fence whether the Sa’ba Taalor is really an ally or are they a new menace to the empire.
Desh Krohan is a sorcerer, advisor to the emperor. He is delightful as a mysterious Merlin-like character as he manipulates, aids, and abets the major players in this story. Even at the end of the story, we’re never quite sure if his intentions are good or evil, self-serving or selfless – what exactly is his agenda? Another major player, our young man on his way to manhood, is Andover Lashk. Also another likeable character, Andover is the underdog young adult beset by horrendous obstacles that he must overcome on his search to find and prove himself.
There are a lot of slamming fighting scenes about conquering frightening monsters and soldier warfare. The Sa’ba Taalor’s entire culture is based on weaponry and battle. Very Spartan.
Moore spends a good deal of time on a somewhat trivial challenge scenario between Drask and a young royal of the empire. The plot seems to bog down during this section and a lot of pages are devoted to this part of the book but eventually Moore pulls the train out of the minor bog and back on track.
Also, Moore provides several cases of foreshadowing that are a bit weak at times and a bit obvious. One major foreshadow, however, drops a hint we look for but even when it slaps us in the face, we’re not ready. That ending just provides sharp twists and turns that will leave you a bit breathless and salivating for the next book. There is a next book coming, right?