Sweet Silver Blues by Glen Cook is the first of the Garrett, P.I., novels set in Cook's pseudo-urban/traditional fantasy world. Glen Cook is perhaps bSweet Silver Blues by Glen Cook is the first of the Garrett, P.I., novels set in Cook's pseudo-urban/traditional fantasy world. Glen Cook is perhaps best known for The Black Company series. Unfortunately, Sweet Silver Blues follows in that series' knack for introducing confusion and leading the reader on such a herky-jerky path that it's nearly impossible to see how one dot is connected to another.
That being said, it's not all bad. Cook presents a colorful array of bruisers, Garrett is about as moody and cynical as any private investigator has a right to be, and the case is solid. But the pursuit of clues is a slow one as Garrett and his motley companions travel abroad to the Cantard, a sort of front where a war is being waged. Monsters abound, including some of the more well-known types—elves, centaurs, unicorns, and vampires—along with some that are new, like the grolls that accompany Garrett. There's plenty of backstabbing and double-crosses, and a climatic, no-hold's barred finale. But it takes a long time to get there. The novel weighs in at a modest 311 pages; it could have been about 50 pages shorter.
Although I was not completely satisfied with the storytelling, I did finish the novel if that means anything. I also only read the first of The Black Company books. I think this series is going to get the same consideration. I think I have to conclude that me and Cook are just not compatible.
Billibub Baddings and the Case of the Singing Sword by Tee Morris is a melding of two of my favorite genres: traditional fantasy and the noir, hard-boBillibub Baddings and the Case of the Singing Sword by Tee Morris is a melding of two of my favorite genres: traditional fantasy and the noir, hard-boiled detective tales of such characters as Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe and Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer. In many ways you get what you expect here: a tough but endearing detective, plenty of buxom babes, and a colorful cast of villains, some dim-witted, others cunning. Taking place in 1920's Chicago, the kicker and what sets this novel apart is the fact that our hero, Billibub Baddings, is a four foot dwarf from another world.
Seeking to save his own world from a plethora of powerful talismans that have fallen into the wrong hands, Billibub makes a final, desperate attempt to destroy them by casting them into a magical portal. In the process, he is also sucked into the portal; he figures his life is worth the price. But instead of dying, Billibub finds himself transported to our own world. Later, as the story unfolds, he learns that the talismans, like himself, live on.
As the story begins, we find Billibub already settled into his new life; the above is given as back-story. He faces many of the daily headaches we might expect: finding the next client, paying the rent, keeping his secretary and assistant happy. But the story really begins when the rich and beautiful Julia Lesinger enters Billibub's office. Our dwarven detective is hired to investigate the death of Julia's boyfriend, a man who Billibub soon learns has mob ties and, more ominously, a link to an artifact found in a Egyptian burial dig that is a bit out of place. Billibub takes the case, following the trail until it leads him to the artifact that is the Singing Sword, one of the talismans he thought destroyed when he hurled it into the portal.
I have to mention that I listened to this novel in audio format. Hailed as the first ever podiobook—that is, a reading embellished by sound effects and an ensemble of voice actors portraying the novel's different characters—it was an absolute joy consuming it in this fashion. The production quality is top-notch, the voices excellent and, in most cases, very fitting, and the use of sound effects was just right.
Whether you read or listen, you have to consider that much of the humor and storytelling is tongue-in-cheek; Morris embraces many traditional fantasy tropes, but they exist only as embellishments and oftentimes for humor as the principal story takes place in the "real" world. But, of course, even that has its own set of stereotypes, especially as the story follows the typical formula of most hard-boiled detective novels. But Morris injects plenty of dwarven wit into the telling that I found myself laughing out loud more than a few times.
I do have to wonder why Morris chose a name so like Bilbo Baggins of The Lord of the Rings fame, but that's a minor qualm. This is the kind of audio book that I'd listen to again, and I've already told my wife she needs to hear it, too.
Tee Morris has podcasted many of his other books. He was the man behind The Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy, a writing advice podcast which is now defunct, and he was both a contributor and editor of the books in The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy series. The next novel in the Billibub Baddings Mystery series is The Case of the Pitcher's Pendant.
The Gilded Chain by Dave Duncan is the first in his six book King's Blade series. While the story in each novel takes places in the same world, each wThe Gilded Chain by Dave Duncan is the first in his six book King's Blade series. While the story in each novel takes places in the same world, each work stands alone as a tale unto itself. This first book tells the story of Durendal, a waif with little future who is recruited to become a King's Blade, a swashbuckling swordsman bound by magic to serve either the king or whoever the king so chooses.
The enchantment is important as it defines the identities of the Blades as a whole. It goes beyond mere allegiance as each Blade is bound magically to protect, serve, and always hold their ward's safety and life in the highest regard. Blades do not sleep, they can stomach only one glass of wine when on duty, and they look upon everyone with suspicion or at least as a potential threat. They do not do this willingly; the enchantment makes them. While there is great loss of freedom in choosing to serve as a King's Blade, it is also considered the highest honor.
Durendal is, of course, special. It is a common practice for each Blade to take the name of a previous Blade and, in doing so, aspire to live up to the previous Blade's deeds. There is one name, Durendal, that none will take for the bar was set too high when that first Durendal served. Not so for our young hero as he claims the name for himself and not only meets the challenge but far exceeds it. What begins as a bit of a predictable tale, with Durendal bound to a nothing lordling, does an about face when that lordling is killed early on. The tale picks up from there, introducing a completely different tale from what one expected based on the book's summary. This works out for the best, for Durendal is sent to learn the whereabouts of a missing Blade and to unravel the mystery of a gladiatorial arena where the gladiators cannot be killed.
I've been reading a bit of Duncan's work lately, namely The Alchemist series of Venetian fantasy/mysteries, which is one of his more recent works. The Gilded Chain goes back a bit to 1998. It's interesting to note the differences in style between this book and Duncan's more recent novels. I can see signs of maturation in both the author's ability to tell a tale and in his writing chops. Regardless, The Gilded Chain is an excellently written work, with a good balance of endearing characters, plot intrigue, adventure, and even a bit of mystery. Duncan does an excellent job of bringing the overall story full circle with a bit of a twist ending that I did not see coming.
The Gilded Chain is a fun read and I'm looking forward to picking up the next book in the series.
Lord of the Fire Lands by Dave Duncan is the second in the King's Blades novels. While it largely stands on its own, it is still intertwined with evenLord of the Fire Lands by Dave Duncan is the second in the King's Blades novels. While it largely stands on its own, it is still intertwined with events that take place in the first novel, The Gilded Chain. In fact, Duncan drops a bomb at the end of Lord of the Fire Lands which directly contradicts events that take place in The Gilded Chain. At first, I had to wonder if I was remembering things wrong (I'd just finished the first book, so I was pretty sure I hadn't), or if I'd missed some subtle hint that would explain why history was not about to follow the path set out in The Gilded Chain. In the end, I realized Duncan had just dropped one of the biggest hooks I'd ever seen for wanting to rush out and buy the next novel in the series (that being Sky of Swords).
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's stick with Lord of the Fire Lands first.
Our main characters are Raider and Wasp, both King's Blades in training who are called into service by King Ambrose. This is what King's Blades do. It is what they are recruited for, what they train for, and what they most want to do in order to bring honor to themselves and to their liege. There is no greater privilege for a Blade than to serve the King. Problem is, both Raider and Wasp refuse their liege.
What unfolds is a story narrated by Raider, whose real name is Radgar, who we come to learn is not of Chivial. Radgar hails from Bael, the Fire Lands, whose people are the sworn enemies of the Chivians. The first part of the novel is consumed by this narration, which is done very well and shows us that the Baels are not the fire-eating barbarians the Chivians believe them to be. Instead, they are colorful and sophisticated in their own way, but chillingly cold in others, as in when they "enthrall" Chivian captives, effectively turning them into soulless shells. Much of this story unfolds through Radgar' father's eyes, and so it is only when Radgar comes into his own that we jump back to the present.
From the telling of Radgar's story, Ambrose knows he can never let Radgar return home, and so he devises a hurried plot to lock the boy up for the rest of his life. Radgar, accompanied by his now sworn Blade, Sir Wasp, escapes, returns to Bael, and there tries to claim what is rightfully his.
It is then, as the novel concludes, that Duncan drops his bomb. I won't go into what it is, as giving it away could be considered a bit of a spoiler. But it's significant enough that I immediately started reading the next novel in the series, Sky of Swords.
My impression of Duncan continues to improve with this latest novel. His stories are enjoyable, engaging, and very well-written. He tends to use a lot of words from Old English; my Kindle's built-in dictionary is perhaps its best and most used feature. I started reading Sky of Swords immediately after finishing this novel and, in fact, just finished it this morning. Look for that review next.
Sky of Swords by Dave Duncan is the third novel in the King's Blades series. In book two, Lord of the Fire Lands, the reader is left hanging at the enSky of Swords by Dave Duncan is the third novel in the King's Blades series. In book two, Lord of the Fire Lands, the reader is left hanging at the end as history inexplicably unfolds in a different fashion compared to what was told in the first novel in the series. Duncan not only has some explaining to do, but, as a writer myself, I was curious to see how he was going to handle this inconsistent situation. I wasn't disappointed in the storytelling or the characters, but I was a little at the ultimate conclusion. Still, I'll give the author some credit: it was something you don't often see done in a fantasy novel, and while I did see where things were going about halfway through, the ride getting there was still fun.
In this installment our point-of-view character is Princess Malinda, daughter of the King of Chivial, which is the principal realm we are concerned with in book one of the series. Similar to how Lord of the Fire Lands was laid out, the story is part past, part present, but always told from Malinda's viewpoint. The novel opens with Malinda locked in prison, accused of high treason against the king. Of course, we know from the second book that the king, her father, is dead, and so the question of who is the current king is just one of many as the story unfolds.
It's interesting that Duncan chose Malinda as the primary viewpoint character. While she shows up in the previous two novels, it is mostly as cameo roles. In those, she is depicted as a spoiled child with little depth. This changes in Sky of Swords as she is forced to grow up fast or crumple beneath the political and royal weight laid upon her. Durendal (the hero and main character from the first novel) once again is present, this time as a secret advisor as Durendal must fear for his own life: Calls for the disbanding of the Blades grow louder after the king's death; anyone associated with them past or present must be wary. But Malinda casts a bold strike when she Binds four Blades to her, thus creating a group called the Princess's Blades.
Sky of Swords is an adventure novel first and foremost, but contains more court and political drama than the first two novels as Malinda must contend for the throne with a cousin and half-brother. Malinda is a likeable character whose personality we learn is quite different from her previous portrayal as we come to realize Duncan's characters are not always the most reliable narrators.
I liked Sky of Swords, but I did find the final solution to setting things right a bit of a letdown. Not to give anything away, but it was a very Superman-like ending. Still, it was a fun read and I'm looking forward to jumping into the next novel, Paragon Lost.
Through Wolf's Eyes by Jane Lindskold follows the basic Tarzan theme: a feral child living amongst the animals (in this case, wolves) is discovered byThrough Wolf's Eyes by Jane Lindskold follows the basic Tarzan theme: a feral child living amongst the animals (in this case, wolves) is discovered by an expedition and brought back to civilization. The child, a young woman known by wolves as Firekeeper but by humans as Blysse, is thought to be the daughter of the king's brother. Turns out the king has no heirs. As a monarch approaching the end of his years, he is pressured by various parties to make a selection from amongst his eligible relatives. If he doesn't choose, civil war is a very real possibility. The return of Lady Blysse throws a wrench into the plans of those factions and individuals vying for the king's favor as she quickly makes an impression upon the elder statesman.
The story would seem somewhat predictable from there, except it isn't. Not that it is a terribly complicated plot, but Lady Blysse/Firekeeper does not simply step into the role of the king's heir. In fact, when offered the responsibility, she turns it down. From that point on, the suspense is raised a notch as the reader is left hanging nearly until the end before we learn who the king has selected. It may very well be Blysse; everyone assumes it is. I won't ruin it if you decide to pick this one up, but let's just say the not knowing creates some contention amongst otherwise already strained relations.
The writing in Through Wolf's Eyes is excellent. At times suspenseful, funny, and intriguing, it is only because the story unfolds so very slowly at times that keeps me from giving this novel a stellar review. It is most definitely a competent, well-told, and interesting story. But it really lags about midway through as Lindskold spends too much time developing relationships between Blysse/Firekeeper and various other members of the royal household. It reminded me mostly of a Bujold story: interesting characters, a well-developed world, and a smooth, easy-to-read story. But it takes some time before the place Lindskold is leading us to become apparent.
There is some history or backstory that Lindskold discusses at times but doesn't explore too thoroughly: long ago, "high" animals coexisted with humans. Blysse brings two such high animals with her in the forms of Blind Seer, a very large wolf, and Elation, a peregrine falcon also larger than the norm. Blysse can communicate with both animals, and they can communicate back. It is something people do not question nor challenge. They just accept it as the sign of madness they believe it is. Lindskold could have gone further with these animals in terms of their prior relationship with humans and possibly she does in a later novel.
Through Wolf's Eyes is the first book in a series that spans at least five novels.
Shadow's Son by Jon Sprunk is both the author's debut novel and the beginning of a new trilogy about the principal character, Caim, an assassin with aShadow's Son by Jon Sprunk is both the author's debut novel and the beginning of a new trilogy about the principal character, Caim, an assassin with a noble heart. The character is unique in a couple of ways: he has a ghostly familiar in the form of Kit who only he can see and, also, he possesses a mysterious power that manifests itself in the form of shadows.
Told in the vein of Paul S. Kemp's Erevis Cale or R.A. Salvatore's Drizzt Do'Urden, Caim is a man who has taken up the knives of an assassin because it's what he's good at. He has rules: he doesn't kill women or children, and only takes contracts on those deserving. How the latter is determined is a bit subjective; this sort of vigilante justice inevitably bags the wrong man every once in a while.
Shadow's Son gets off to a rousing start. Caim is in the middle of a job that quickly degenerates into a chase and kill escapade as he refuses to allow his target to get away. From there we begin to learn more about our main character: why he's chosen this life, who his friends are (he doesn't have many), and what aspirations he harbors, especially of leaving the assassination business behind one day.
There is an ensemble of other characters: the beforementioned Kit who shadows Caim's every move, Jospehine, whose father is assassinated under suspicious circumstances and who is forced into an alliance with Caim, Ral, a rival assassin, and three principal villains who I unfortunately found to be caricatures of each other, with the only one displaying any sort of uniqueness being Leviticus because he shares some of the same shadow powers that Caim possesses.
I thought Shadow's Son started out great. But it quickly degenerates into a very predictable, cliché-ridden story. Bad boy hero is really a good guy deep down who develops an impossible relationship with the rich girl whose father he's accused of murdering. Also, he has a dark past tied up with a heritage he insists on denying even though it's pretty obvious there's some truth to it. In the end, he must embrace this heritage and save the city.
As for the characters, Caim often comes across as too noble to have ever gotten mixed up in such a sordid career. Josephine is your typical rich girl who is tougher than she looks; she has some character development, but I wasn't convinced. Kit, who might have been the most interesting of all, has potential that is never fully explored as she conveniently disappears so that Caim and Josephine can get to know each other a little better. The three villains… they're mean, greedy, and power-hungry in equal amounts, but fairly shallow from a motivation perspective.
Shadow's Son is akin to a blockbuster summer movie that almost works: good entertainment but not something that's going to make you think or feel hungry for the next installment. I'll see what Sprunk has in the works for the next book in the series and if it sounds intriguing enough I might pick it up. He at least leaves Caim's future adventures wide-open.
The Disunited States of America by Harry Turtledove is an alternate history tale in which the Constitution of the United States was never written. TheThe Disunited States of America by Harry Turtledove is an alternate history tale in which the Constitution of the United States was never written. The resulting fallout is that the "united states" become the "disunited states", with each state going down its own road. Advances in society, technology, etc. all occur at different rates within each state. Some still have slavery. Others have achieved the relative amount of equality we enjoy ourselves. Still others have reversed the white/black dichotomy altogether; blacks are masters over whites. War amongst the states is frequent. California is one of the most advanced and powerful of the states; no one messes with them.
Beckie lives in this alternate world. Justin, a Crosstime Traffic traveler, is from our timeline, but he comes to this variation of the U.S. with his mother on a sort of educational fieldtrip. Justin and Beckie, both teenagers, meet and hit it off. Chaos ensues as they find themselves mixed up in an escalating war between Ohio and Virginia. For Beckie, it's about surviving so she can return to her family in California. For Justin, it's about getting back to his own timeline.
The Disunited States of America flows along well enough, but for all the premise of travel between alternate dimensions, not much is really done with it. Justin arrives, he has some adventures, he leaves. But it's a quick read, which explains why I finished this novel at all (alternate history is not my usual thing) despite there not really being a lot of science fiction meat to chew on. I almost put it down, but at that point I was so close to the end I went ahead and pushed through.
The novel is the fourth book in Turtledove's Crosstime Traffic series.
Reiffen's Choice by S.C. Butler is a story that reminded me most of a cross between Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. The former because the casReiffen's Choice by S.C. Butler is a story that reminded me most of a cross between Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. The former because the cast of characters includes a young girl and two young boys, and the latter because the world of Reiffen's Choice is very much traditional fantasy though with some flavoring of its own.
The young adults in this tale are Reiffen, the exiled heir to the throne, Avender, a commoner who is also Reiffen's friend, and Ferris, the headstrong girl who rounds out our Harry Potter-like trio. This edition of the novel was published in 2007, so I don't think I'm being unfair in making this comparison.
Butler distinguishes himself by adding in a Shaper by the name of Redburr, who most often appears as a bear but also as a bat, an eagle, and even a man. Presumably he can take any shape, though these are the ones he makes use of in this first novel of what is a three book series. Also, there is Nolo, a Dwarf who is a bit unlike the usual dwarves we are all familiar with. Dwarves in Butler's novel are limited in number; there are only eight hundred or so, and no women. Their skin is as hard (or harder) then rock and they are completely immune to the effects of magic.
The villains in this tale are three wizards determined to use Reiffen to gain the throne that Reiffen himself will never possess. To this end, they kidnap the boy, setting off a chain of events that culminates in Avender, Ferris, Redburr, and Nolo setting off to rescue him. While Reiffen is tempted by the three wizards, those four make the arduous journey to the wizards' stronghold. Some of the story is taken up with this journey; it's easy to see why tales of this nature fell out of favor as once you've read enough of these sorts of stories, well, the traveling and discovering new places wears thin. Still, while there is definitely some text that could have been cut, it all flows along well enough.
The novel is billed as "YA". While I would recommend it as such, I also didn't think it was only for young adult readers. It's a good story with some interesting characters and ideas. If you're looking for a three book series that has hints of the traditional fantasy many of us grew up with, I'd give Reiffen's Choice a look.
Ephemera: Dark Stories from the mind of Paul S. Kemp by Paul S. Kemp is a collection of previously published shorts that the author collected togetherEphemera: Dark Stories from the mind of Paul S. Kemp by Paul S. Kemp is a collection of previously published shorts that the author collected together into a new, single volume source available in Amazon's Kindle store. Kemp is the NY Times bestselling author of the popular Erevis Cale novels and stories.
As the sub-title indicates, these are dark tales. You won't come away feeling good. You'll experience murder, rape, injustice, and torture. But Kemp handles each of these topics with a certain finesse, neither overdoing it nor throwing in something just for shock factor. There may be some unsavory happenings, but they're each integral to the story in question.
The collection consists of just over 200 pages and includes the following stories:
The Signal (available as a free download from the author's blog): A hard-boiled detective story with a Lovecraftian slant. One Thousand and One Words: A reporter's visit to a reclusive enigma's mansion may be his last. Marlboro Man: A story about a very unangel-like angel. Confession: Two brothers go to summon a demon. The Spinner: A nautical tale about wrongdoing and self-sacrifice. Stillborn: A witch's tale of sacrifice. The Sixth Floor: A short but chilling story of zombies and survival. I found each of the stories enjoyable (maybe that's the wrong word given the content; let's say instead the stories and characters did an excellent job of luring me in). The only exception might be Marlboro Man. I don't object to the blasphemy. The story itself just didn't leave me as haunted or as satisfied as the others. My favorites were The Signal, The Spinner, and The Sixth Floor. The last, while the shortest, is also the most chilling. It's a nice send-off for what is a vey well written, haunting collection of shorts.
The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett got off to a great start, but ultimately didn't do it for me. This is a book I'd read a lot about, and so I began reaThe Warded Man by Peter V. Brett got off to a great start, but ultimately didn't do it for me. This is a book I'd read a lot about, and so I began reading with a certain amount of pent-up expectation. The concept is great: humans have lost much of their past, including technology and magic they once used to nearly drive the demons that rise from the ground each night into extinction. They survive now only because enough of the warding magic was preserved to protect their houses where they are forced to hide each time the sun goes down. Once, there were attack wards, but those have long been forgotten. Until the Warded Man returns, a legendary figure from a bygone era who not only walks the night, but preys on the very demons who hunt humanity.
If only Brett had launched into the story like that, I think it would have worked much better. Instead he takes us on a long voyage beginning with Arlen's childhood (Arlen eventually becomes the Warded Man), the loss of his mother, and how it drives him to leave his village one day with no concern for the demons that he knows will kill him as soon as the sun sets. He survives that first night, and others, until he arrives at a city where he is taken in by a Messenger, someone who braves the night to bring news and supplies from one village to another.
The story also deals with the upbringing of two other characters: Leesha and Rojer. Leesha becomes a medicine woman and Rojer a Jongleur, a companion to Messengers and an entertainer. Their individual stories are interesting enough. Suffice to say their paths cross with that of Arlen's or, rather, the Warded Man, since that is who Arlen has become by the time the three meet, and together they stage the largest assault on demon-kind the world has seen in a very long time.
While I did enjoy Arlen's transformative journey, I felt that introducing the Warded Man as a more undefined entity might have worked better. Instead, by seeing the Warded Man's origin story laid out in such detail, it takes away all of the mystery surrounding him.
Rojer seemed almost an afterthought at times. He fills up some pages, but was he truly needed? I have my doubts.
Leesha… a likeable character with a deep personality but I had an issue with a plot point in which Leesha is raped. I don't know what the deal is, but this is the second time I've read a somewhat recently released fantasy novel where a rape "happens" (I won't even call them scenes because they are both dealt with after the rape has occurred; the event itself is completely skipped over). The other was Sprunk's Shadow's Son. In both novels, the rape is so unnecessary to the story that I have to wonder if it wasn't the publisher who strongly encouraged (made) the author put it in. In Leesha's case, in particular, the character goes to great lengths at times to "save herself" for that perfect man she might meet someday (she winds up finding herself attracted to the Warded Man, something I did not get at all; it seemed really forced) only to find herself in the most ridiculous of circumstances and raped. The ridiculous circumstances are when Rojer, an experienced traveler, tells a group of perfect strangers what route they intend to take and, oh, by the way, I'm the only one guarding this fair lady.
Not that The Warded Man is all bad. The whole idea of demons rising every night is top-notch. Brett explains their existence and how humans lost the ability to fight them well-enough, also. I think he really had what could have been a grand series here. Unfortunately, I think he fails to execute and I don't think I'll be picking up the next book in the series.
Enter Nevare Burvelle, second son of a second son, fated because of his birth order to become a soldier in his king's cavalla (cavalry). Much of thisEnter Nevare Burvelle, second son of a second son, fated because of his birth order to become a soldier in his king's cavalla (cavalry). Much of this first book in the series deals with Nevare's childhood: how his father initiates him into his birth-fate, begins to meld him into the man he must one day become, and, finally, sends him off to the King's Academy where he will learn the business of soldiering. Along the way, as you would expect, Nevare becomes entangled in a web that neither he nor the reader will fully understand until events unfold in Renegade's Magic.
I found Shaman's Crossing fully engaging. Nevare's early years on his family's estate draw you in from the start, introducing us to his father's war history with the Plainspeople and Nevare's own bond with one Plainsman in particular. There was almost a low point where Nevare is at the academy, what with the mundane day-to-day life of a student and all, but Hobb keeps the reader interested with a myriad of sub-plots and a cast of real, believable characters who each have difficulties or challenges of their own. It was a lot of fun reading the beginnings of what becomes a much larger story for Nevare, and I'd scarce put Shaman's Crossing down before Forest Mage was in hand and turned to page one.
The cover of this book is important because, more than any other cover I've seen for this series in all it's many editions, it symbolizes what the SolThe cover of this book is important because, more than any other cover I've seen for this series in all it's many editions, it symbolizes what the Soldier Son Trilogy is all about. You have a man--a cavalry soldier--sword drawn, facing the mists of the forest and the ominous mountains beyond. There is fire, carnage, and an overwhelming feeling that something is out there. Is it coming? Is it waiting for our cavalryman's charge? We don't know, but clearly the man senses the danger he's in else his sword would not be drawn.
The soldier, of course, represents Nevare. I say "represents" because Nevare never becomes that man--that soldier--being shown on the cover. Something happens to him, something that was begun in Shaman's Crossing that spills over here. He never becomes the Soldier Son he was supposed to be. Instead, he changes in ways I won't report here least it take something away from your own reading. Suffice to say bad things happen. He's in a sorry state. Yet he battles on, searching for a solution to a dilemma begun in book one which has taken everything from him but his life. Even that, however, might be forfeit if he doesn't come to terms with who and what he has become.
Again, Hobb draws us in with her masterful storytelling. I honestly felt for Nevare's misfortune and kept turning the pages because I wanted to see him succeed. Sad to say, he doesn't. Not in the way we hope, anyway. Forest Mage, like any middle volume, is a bridge between book's one and two, though it does wrap up a good part of Nevare's misfortune (and one of his lives--read the book to understand that!) and sets him on the road to finality as told in Renegade's Magic.