Seven Forges by James A. Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Charged with mapping the land beyond the Blasted Lands, a frozen wasteland devastated by a cataclysm centuries past, Major Merros Dulver encounter the Sa'ba Taalor, the denizens of the Seven Forges. The Sa'ba Taalor are a society of warriors living in a fertile valley amid the Seven Forges, seven volcanic mountains. A small group accompany Merros back to the empire. Can they co-exist with the Empire in peace or will war destroy them all?
I got this ARC from Angry Robot. All hail our ill-tempered robot overlords!
Much like Three, I initially became interested in Seven Forges because of the cover. The cover is pretty impressive and the book beneath it is even more so.
While it seems like a pretty straightforward fantasy tale at first glance, it's a lot more than that. It's the tale of two very different cultures coming together and trying to co-exist. However, the people of the Empire have gotten soft after years with no enemies and the Sa'ba Taalor are a race of fighters living in the most inhospitable habitat on the planet, trained to fight from birth. Yeah, this meeting isn't going to go well.
Moore does a great job contrasting the warrior culture of the Sa'Ba Taalor and their seven gods with the politics and religion of the empire. The warriors are frighteningly competent but still well-rounded characters, particularly Tusk and Drask. Merros and Wollis know they're out of their depth most of the time but keep trying to hold up their end of things. Desh, the emperor's wizard, was also quite interesting, forever scheming behind the scenes. I thought Andover would wind up being more important but his thread was also an interesting one and served to reveal more of the Taalor culture.
Speaking of the Sa'Ba Taalor culture, Moore does a hell of a lot of worldbuilding in 330 pages without bogging down the rest of the book. The culture is fleshed out quite a bit but still remains mysterious enough for further books. Hint!
Without spoiling the ending, it reminds of an episode of the Twilight Zone or the Outer Limits with a kick in the crotch twist right at the end. Richard Matheson would have been proud.
James A. Moore's writing was a notch above what I was expecting, although I shouldn't have been surprised. Where does Angry Robot keep finding these writers?
That's about all I have to say. James A. Moore entertained the hell out of me with Seven Forges and also made me think. If he writes more books in this world, I'll definitely read them. Four easy stars.
Also on Goodreads