James A. Moore, widely known for his horror and dark fantasy stories, decided to dip his toe in the large ocean of epic fantasy and what he delivers is an intriguing, bloody, and adventurous story about two races meeting one other and learning how to coexist. Seven Forges will not be the most fluid or well constructed novel you will come across, but the book has plenty of depth for the first book in a series with plenty of meat on the bone to continue on to book 2.
The empire has sent an expedition crew to the volcanic mountains of the Seven Forges in order to encounter a long lost civilization. The crew is captained by Merros Dulver as he leads his crew through the frozen tundra. After a long journey, they stumble across the Sa’ba Taalor and it seems as if they were expecting him all this time. The Sa’ba Taalor are a warrior culture of immense strength and combat skills with grey skin and veils covering their faces. They worship seven gods each named after the seven volcanic mountains and that is how we get the Seven Forges. Religion is a big component in their culture and it is taught to them at a very young age in the Blasted Lands. A small group of the Sa’ba Taalor decide to join Merros and his crew back to the empire, where the world will know the existence of these beings and how different they are.
As I mentioned earlier, the plot seems pretty straight forward from the start but James Moore introduces a lot of depth not only to the characters but the world as well. Merros is an prideful and rugged veteran who always seems to trust his instincts when making decisions. Merros knows that his mission was to bring back these strangers to the empire, but something feels off about them and he will do what ever it takes to get to the bottom of it. Our main POV’s for the Sa’ba Taalor are Drask Silverhand and Swech. Drask is the leader of the group he has the interactions with Merros when they first meet. Drask has a hand which seems to be made of silver but it is attached to his arm as if he was born with it. Although Drask speaks in a mysterious way to both Merros and the reader, you will be drawn into his words of culture, philosophy, and will be begging him to tell you more. Swech is a female Sa’ba Taalor with plenty of funny and snarky interactions with the humans especially when they get to the imperial court. Swech has plans of her own and they will keep everyone of their toes.
The story and plot do start out slow and the reader will feel at times that nothing big seems to happen in this 400 page novel. James A. Moore wants to give you a deep dive into the lifestyles of two vastly different civilizations, the differences in their cultures and traditions, and see what the results may be. The pacing does suffer a little bit, but the investment you will get for following these characters will pay off in spades when unexpected twists, chaos, and shocking revelations are put on display. The last 20% of this book is a non-stop adrenaline rush and you will be absorbed in the euphoria. I read this book when it was first published in 2013 and after 8 years away from the Seven Forges, I can still remember the shocking moments as they are engraved in my mind. This story will not be for everyone, especially if you need a fast moving plot and a grand magic system. Seven Forges is a slow-burn character driven novel but with the payoff to back it up.
Seven Forges is still to this day a relatively unknown novel to the larger fantasy community. It brings me joy to share novels like these with the larger community and to share in all its wonders and dread. If you had to judge a book by its cover then this one has a pretty amazing one to judge. War is coming to the empire and the preparations will be done in one form or another.