Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson is the first of The Kharkanas Trilogy set. Just what have I gotten myself into? To summarize, I was never a fan of the Malazan series although that barely counts for anything since I’ve quit reading Gardens of the Moon at around the 40% mark. I’ve never cared for the series since then. That was in December of 2011. Fast forward to November of 2016 and I found that the next random thing I wanted to do was to read Forge of Darkness, the prequel to the Malazan series. Why? I really can’t say. Sometimes you don’t chose the next book to read. It chooses you (yeah I know, cliché). I thought it was a good a chance to start over fresh. Being a prequel, I didn’t really have to understand any of what happened in the Malazan series to enjoy Forge of Darkness. So how’d it go? Well, good news is I made it all the way through this time around and the book was very good. Bad news is what do I do now? If I continue on, I have a feeling that after finishing this trilogy, I’ll have to revisit the Malazan series again. Folks, that is an epic ten book series! I don’t have as much free time as I did back in year 2011 so I need to spend my time wisely in choosing my next books to read. On the bright side, at least all ten books have already been released!
To start off, you will in the beginning be assaulted with a huge amount of characters to keep up with in Forge of Darkness. I couldn’t remember the last time I had trouble keeping up with the amount of characters in a story. Too late did I realize that in each given chapter, there seems to be a “fixed” amount of characters. So while there are a lot of characters to deal with overall, characters A, B and C usually are in one chapter and D, E and F are usually grouped into another. It also bothered me that I personally lost track a couple times as to what was actually happening. For example, I could be reading about three or four character storylines in chapter 4, then read chapters 5, 6 and 7, and then in chapter 8 when it goes back to those characters that were presented in chapter 4, I’d be like wait, how the heck did these characters meet up?! I thought they were leagues apart in the world?! That just goes to show you that the storyline is pretty complex and you need to really pay close attention to everything.
The fantasy world of Gurald Galain is pretty grim and dark (no pun intended). Expect no humor whatsoever from the characters. Zero. Not once could I remember either chuckling, smiling or laughing throughout reading any part of the book! Surprisingly though, I don’t believe that’s what made me feel detached from a majority of the characters presented. While I understood what the characters are going through and whatnot throughout the story, they were simply just “there”. I didn’t really care if the character I was reading in any given chapter was evil or good. This then brings me to the writing. If you are one to like highlighting passages and quotes, get ready because I’m thinking you’ll be doing a whole lot of that here. There is a lot of internal character dialogue that showcases the author’s talent for character growth and personalization. If you’re not one to like challenging your beliefs and ideology while reading a story, this book probably isn’t meant for you or probably any of the other books from the author. The reading can be a bit hard to get into, especially for beginners, due to the poem-like structured writing and dialogue. I actually welcomed it as it is a good change of pace from what I’d normally read. Nothing beats reading these types of books on a Kindle device as looking up the definition of a word is just a single click away. I read a lot but I admit that I had to do a whole lot of just that!
All in all, this book is best treated as a slow burner, which is to be expected for a book in the epic fantasy genre. With the complex plot and large amount of characters to keep track of, many of us have no choice but to take it slowly. Yes, you may get your mind warped a couple times and not everything will make sense, at least initially. But then again, what epic fantasy series do in the beginning? Things need to simmer for a while before it gets going and I find that it was worth it. It could just be that I’m a sucker for epic stories that are willing to spend an equally amount of time on all characters, whether or not they are considered evil or good and Forge of Darkness hits just the right spot for me to consider this feat accomplished.