Sunday, 27 April 2014

Fantasy Review (DNF): 'Oblivion's Forge' by Simon Williams

Oblivion's Forge

The word that springs to mind while reading this is portentous. The opening chapters are stuffed with mysterious happenings, deeply meaningful but unexplained dreams and visions, characters who are compelled to do certain things and who are assisted at life-threatening moments by shadowy mystics. Something Very Bad is about to happen, and it’s so bad that it can only be spoken of in cryptic utterances that the reader will come to understand by the end of the book (or possibly the end of the trilogy, who knows). And all this in a deeply hostile wintry landscape.

So clearly this is dark fantasy, which means the characters will suffer many unpleasant experiences on their journey through the plot. And I’ll be honest, I just wasn’t in the mood for it. Sometimes I just want entertainment rather than gruesomeness. Sometimes I just want to know what the hell’s going on. Sometimes I get tired of these fantasy worlds where everything is gloom and misery, and there isn’t even a decent tavern brawl. So mea culpa, this is just a mismatch between the book and me.

And I’m a bit cross, because beneath the mysticism, this is a wonderfully literate and thoughtful piece of work, which normally I would be lapping up. The author has an almost lyrical style which is a pleasure to read, although he’s a bit inclined to toss in a lot of backstory (all of it portentous, naturally, and not at all explanatory). The world itself is very well thought out and there’s plenty of magic of various sorts going on.

For anyone who likes their fantasy dark, cryptic and thoroughly mystical, this is an excellent, well-written example. Sadly, it wasn’t for me. I got 15% of the way in before giving up. One star for a DNF.

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