Genre: Fantasy — Sword and Sorcery
Series: Seven Forges #4
Publisher: Angry Robot (May 3, 2016)
Length: 400 pages
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
James A. Moore’s Seven Forges series is a pulse-pounding, sword and sorcery extravaganza. The Saga of the Sa’ba Taalor a staggering epic, which erupts across this vast fantasy world slowly but surely, affecting numerous characters and people; the struggle a fierce conflict for the future of this place, the future of humanity. Along the way, readers will encounter superhuman warriors, fierce combat, scheming gods, heart-wrenching acts of terrorism, needless deaths, ancient mysteries, more than a little gallows humor, subtle talk about religion, faith, and truth, and witnessed that most jarring of events: the end of a civilization. All of it hard to forget, branded on your reading psyche by a master storyteller, whose deft plotting and addictive twists and turns keep you reading into the wee hours of the morning to discover how it will all end. And after finishing The Silent Army, the one glaring question you will demand to have answered is, “When does book five come out?”
But until the next book arrives, let us talk about this one. Mr. Moore picking up the Seven Forges story immediately after the conclusion of City of Wonders. And I mean immediately, “The kings (of the Sa’ba Taalor) gathered together, those of them who were near the place where (the city of) Canhoon had once rested in the ground, and stared at the vast landmass rising above them.”
Oh, yes, this one begins with a miracle having occurred. The bloodthirsty horde of the Sa’ba Taalor looking on helplessly as old Canhoon slips through their snapping jaws. The mysterious magic of the Silent Army launching Fellein’s capital into the sky, sending it speeding away toward the east. Where the flying citadel is headed no one has a clue, even the Empire’s eternal First Counselor, wizard Desh Krohan, stunned by what has transpired. His words of wisdom to Empress Nachia and General Merros Dulver to enjoy their reprieve while it lasts and plan for the coming apocalypse, because they will have to come down somewhere and the Sa’ba Taalor will undoubtedly be waiting for them.
Truer sentiments were never uttered, for even as Canhoon skims across the clouds, the Sa’ba Taalor do not for one second doubt their divinely ordained crusade will fail; rather, their faith in their gods is unshakable, and they know the “Great Tide” will destroy Fellein. And so King Tuskandru and Tarag Paedori sound the horns, launching the invincible wave of god-forged warriors in pursuit. Their cries of “To War!” heralding death and destruction for all in their path!
Meanwhile, a world away, that which has lain hidden under the Mounds in the desolate Blasted Lands has been released. This ancient and mysterious power now having taken shelter in human forms; this small band stalking toward the east, following an irresistible pull toward Canhoon, where the fate of the world will be decided!
To me, each book in this series can be summarized by a single descriptive term. Seven Forges was about Discovery: of the lands about the Seven Forges, of the Sa’ba Taalor themselves. The Blasted Lands was Anticipation: of the coming conflict, of the inevitable clash between peoples. City of Wonders was War: in all its brutality, in all its horrors. Now, with The Silent Army, Mr. Moore has given us Epic: a world spanning conflict, a struggle to decide the fate of an entire civilization. And I for one loved every “epic” event which the author threw my way. Scene after scene of it. Every titanic clash, every awe-inspiring magical event, every god-like creature, every dramatic revelation, every horrid deed, all of them building into a sword and sorcery feast not to be missed. The Sa’ba Taalor rising to the forefront of most epic race in sword and sorcery literature. Drask and Tusk the epitome of “epic” warriors. Seven Forges this millennium’s gold standard for “epic” sword and sorcery series.
As for the heroic Fellein defenders set in the path of the seemingly invincible Sa’ba Taalor, they are the perfect foil. From the mighty Desh Krohan to the untried Empress Nachia to the determined Derros Merros to the mad survivor Cullen to the driven Captain Callan to the mysterious Silent Army, all are swept up in the unspeakable horrors of the end of their whole civilization; each desperately fighting against the insurmountable tide of a people born and bred for a holy war. There is no hope of quarter in this conflict. No hope for peace. The descendants of ancient Korwa sent by their gods for one thing: genocide upon Fellein. But in our small band of heroic mortals (and stone guardians), the Sa’ba Taalor find a worthy adversary; adversaries who will not flee, will not turn aside as their world burns around them, but continue to scheme, fight, and struggle for the right to survive another day.
Needless to say, I loved this book. Each and every aspect of it (setting, plot, action, and mystery) worked for me. The story building upon those which came before it, racing toward an epic clash which lived up to my expectations in every way, delivering Mr. Moore’s classic slight-of-hand approach to each stunning revelation and each dramatic outcome. The Silent Army taking its place as the best installment yet in a series which seemingly gets better and better.
But since I would feel remiss if I did not mention the one thing which did not work for me here, I suppose I have to address it: Desh Krohan. This ancient sorcerer with god-like powers is old, wise, and deeply cunning — at least, he is presented as such throughout the series. However, in this narrative, he does not live up to any of those descriptions. There really isn’t any wise counsel coming from him; no brilliant strategy garnered from centuries of observing the world; no devastating sorcery unleashed to stem the tide. Nope, he spends most of his page time talking about all magic having a price, explaining that his mind is so old past events have been forgotten, and screwing up the few things he does try to do. A less awesome sorcerer I can’t recall reading about, though even his ineptitude did not ruin this book.
One of the greatest joys of reading for me personally is discovering a series which grows into something more amazing than I ever expected. Seven Forges is one of those series. Book one, Seven Forges, certainly flashed glimpses of brilliance, but it remained to be seen if the full potential of this world and the Sa’ba Taalor would be unleashed by Mr. Moore. Steadily, book by book, he has done so, molding his creation into one of the best sword and sorcery series ever, one which has the legs to run as long as Mr. Moore wishes to pen it; its fans (me included) eager and willing to return to this world whenever we have another opportunity.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.