Compelling and Fascinating Fantasy
Simon Williams has constructed a compelling and believably fantasy world in “Oblivion’s Forge.” This novel manages to evoke the sense of wonderment that is achieved by “Game of Thrones” or “Lord of the Rings” while also managing to create something entirely new. There is a decidedly believable human element in “Oblivion’s Forge,” as characters wrestle with familiar issues that are all too frequently left out of fantasy stories. This is a great read and it will be interesting to watch how Williams further develops as a writer.
There are a lot of characters in “Oblivion’s Forge” and the narrative jumps from one to another frequently. This can be a little bit jarring, especially at first before you get to know the characters. However, all of the characters are compelling and it doesn’t take the reader long to become accustomed to this narrative tactic.
One character that I liked was Vornen. Vornen is an outcast who is psychically attuned to the energy “gates” that sometimes spontaneously appear in Aona. He finds himself drawn to these “gates” although they are extremely dangerous. This psychic link has a detrimental effect on Vornen’s ability to lead a normal life, and he finds himself wrestling with various forms of addiction. He’s cast out of his adoptive home and is left to wander the world searching for his place in it, while attempting to avoid the suicidal call of the “gates.” However, as the novel progresses, Vornen begins to emerge as one of the important players of Aona.
Another interesting character is Jaana. These days it has become cliché to downgrade a fantasy novel for not having enough female characters, but Jaana isn’t included just to avoid that criticism. Jaana is a healer who finds herself unable to treat a new illness that’s spreading among the villages of her region. Concerned with her failure, she seeks out the council of her mentor, a mystical hermit of some renown. However, when Jaana finally reunites with her former teacher, she ends up with more questions than answers.
Most of the characters of “Oblivion’s Forge” are flawed in some way, but they are self-aware which makes them interesting. This isn’t a fantasy of “perfect” knights in shining armor who are confident in every sword stroke. In “Oblivion’s Forge” the characters are possessed by a desire to do the right thing, but they are often opposed by their own inability, or lack of knowledge as to what the right course is. This personal angst felt by every character is reflected in the overall events of the novel that seemingly happen at random, but yet also appear to be connected. What are the mysterious “gates” that torment Vornen? What is the source of the illness that has befuddled Jaana, the renowned and respected (if not by herself) healer?
There is a plot going on in the background of “Oblivion’s Forge” but it is not of the “Dark Lord” variety. Something is happening and every now and then you get a glimpse of a clue, but the overall picture is difficult to grasp. As you peer through the character’s eyes, you sense and sometimes share their frustration and confusion, even while enjoying the benefit of the larger perspective that comes from seeing a variety of angles. This is very good storytelling that improves in richness with every new clue that is revealed. Suffice it to say there’s no boring exposition. This book is more like a large, delightful riddle you share with the characters. If you enjoy fantasy that involves real characters you can relate to, you’re going to love “Oblivion’s Forge.”
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