This is a really, really long book. It’s also a tough one to recommend, at least across the board.
I’m a major fan of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, the ten book fantasy series by Steve Erikson that, in my mind, has dominated the Fantasy genre without equal since it concluded back in 2011. Forge is the beginning of a prequel trilogy to that series, taking place a cool 300,000 years beforehand. If all that sounds properly ridiculous, we haven’t even gotten started. This book was also deliberately written in a “Shakespearian, tragic style,” so there isn’t even (as much of) Erikson’s trademark humor to lighten things up, here. The novel jumps around at least a dozen viewpoints, probably closer to twenty — though only six or seven are major players in the drama.
It’s a whole lot to take in. Regardless, I loved every minute of it.
Getting into the nitty gritty of the novel’s plot would probably spoil things majorly for the main series. To sum things up far more quickly than this novel deserves, however: the realm of Kurald Galain, home to the Tiste people, is on the brink of civil war. The realm has recently lost their monarch, and gained a new goddess and religion in the process. Things are slowly, inexorably spiraling out of control, and though most of the characters exhaustively seek for peace, there is little enough of that to go around. War is seemingly inevitable.
Steve Erikson loves to philosophize, and there is plenty of that here. I don’t think it gets too thick on the ground like it did at times in Malazan, but it is definitely an acquired taste. The tragic structure he is building does allow for a darker tone, so I was willing to meet him halfway on this one.
The plot moves slowly and methodically, and does drag towards the midpoint of the novel. However, as much as I expected this book to contain mostly buildup, with much of the action saved for the other two novels in the trilogy, a lot more, well, plot happens in the back half than I expected. There are more than a few “wham” moments, enough to justify the near-300,000 wordcount.
If you’re a fan of Malazan already, pick this one up. If you’re not, this is perhaps not the best entry point into the series — try Gardens of the Moon, instead. But if any of the above appeals to you, give it a shot.