Book Review: Ice Forged by Gail Z. Martin
Series: Book 1 of Ascendant Kingdoms
Date of Publication: January 8, 2013
Author Information: Website | Twitter
I’ve long been curious about Ice Forged. Though I also own The Summoner from her Chronicles of the Necromancer series, for some reason I just knew I wanted this one to be my first Gail Z. Martin book. They’re both stories set in high fantasy worlds, but lands of ice and snow have always fascinated me, I don’t know why. Maybe because I think these harsh settings are often fertile ground for exceptional protagonists, driven to be harder in an environment marked by extreme temperatures and scarcity. I love to read about characters becoming shaped by those experiences and overcoming those challenges.
So it was a pleasant surprise when the book began by throwing its main protagonist into a situation that was even more harrowing than I’d expected. Blaine McFadden is convicted of murder, and though his reasons for the killing were honorable, the young nobleman is sentenced to live out the rest of his days in a penal colony on Velant, an icy wasteland at the edge of the world. Six years later, Blaine (now known as “Mick”) is a new man, emerging as a natural leader in the eyes of the other convicts and colonists. Still, they are kept under the thumb of an oppressive governor, and are at the mercy of the mages who are always too keen to administer their swift and often cruel discipline.
But one day, the supply ships stop coming. War has torn Blaine’s former home of Dondareth apart, and the magic that civilization had always depended upon has been lost. It changes everything. Without the mage’s power holding them back, the colonists of Velant take back their freedom but afterwards they too must decide their own fate. For many, this frigid land has become home, and they would like nothing more than to stay. Blaine, however, still has a far greater destiny to fulfill.
This is good old fashioned down-to-earth epic fantasy. And I use that description as a compliment. In many ways, this book reminds me of the pure delight and enjoyment I felt when I read Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations series, which I also loved; both share that same easy, straightforward writing style with story elements and character-types that won’t be anything new to the avid fantasy reader, and yet I felt warm and comfortable wrapped in their familiarity.
I was also glad to see I was right about the strong characters, all of whom are wonderful and likeable in this novel. They are what drives this story, and makes the reader care about what happens in this book. When the magic went away, I found myself completely gripped by the consequences, shocked by certain deaths I never expected or kept on edge about what characters would do in response to such a big change in their world. Despite how I described the novel in the previous paragraph, scenes like these are what sets Ice Forged apart and makes it special.
I’m particularly impressed with the world which Gail Z. Martin has created, with emphasis on the background of the lore and magic. Not that the descriptions and details of the places in Velant or Dondareth weren’t rendered well either, but I was much more drawn in by the histories of the land and people that she has woven. I love stories that establish a long, vivid past, because then the effects on the present and the future feel more impactful. That is the case here.
All in all, Ice Forged is a solid start to a new series. I eagerly await the next Ascendant Kingdoms novel to continue following Blaine on his quest to restore stability to his world.
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