As a longtime fan of both the author and the preceding trilogy, I can certifiably say that John Marco is one of the greats in the genre of Epic Fantasy and everyone should give this book a read. While I will admit that I am a die-hard fan of Marco, this book was a real pleasure, as it saw the author attempt to reinvent his style and his character, and does with thrilling success.
The Forever Knight picks up where The Sword of Angels left off--Lukien still protects Grimhold, home of the Inhumans, but is now free of one of the two Eyes of Gods that guaranteed his immortality, having replaced the magical amulet with the powerful Sword of Angels, a mighty weapon which contains the Akari spirit of Malator, a hero from ages past. What really struck me about this novel immediately were two things:
1. John Marco, a master of third person-limited point-of-view, decided to tell the story from Lukien's first person perspective, and
2. Damn, this book is short. Marco's work usually spans over 700 pages, but The Forever Knight comes in at a very trim 282 pages!
What follows is both a gamble and a feat of writing mastery that both dazzled and left me thoroughly impressed. While the book is much shorter, it is clear that in the seven years since Sword of Angels' release (2006) that Marco has spent time refining his craft, as each sentence packs a punch and carries the story along at a break-neck pace. Even though there are the grand battles, ghostly magics, and well-layered characters one comes to expect in this beloved genre, Marco shines forth with his greatest skill as a writer--all of his characters, especially Lukien, are real. They breath upon the pages, interacting with each other in a realistic sense. None of it feels forced or fabricated to get the plot from one point to the next.
The strength of this novel truly lies with Lukien, who is so nuanced as hero, still struggling to coincide his past losses of his friends and the love of his life, Cassandra, while miring in the peace he helped create during the Inhumans Trilogy. We get to see what happens when good wins but the hero is left alone with nothing to show for his victory beyond his victory, and with this base emotion of a listless existence, Marco has remade a protagonist we can all relate to. At some point in all our lives we feel like we used to do something worthwhile but then that something finished and we were left spinning our wheels. Sometimes we do stupid things to fill the gap, and sometimes we do great things. Lukien does both, and it makes him a very compelling character as he goes off the find meaning in the world through war and wonders. His relationship with Malator is especially captivating, as the dialogue between them is superb and really fleshes them both out in ways that the previous novel could not.
If some out there haven't read the first trilogy, I would implore all do to so, but one of the nice things that Marco does in this novel is write it in such a way that the reader can piece together what happened in the previous arc, effectively letting the reader start fresh at this point. He is one of the few writers I have found who can do it right, the other being RA Salvatore and Stephen Lawhead.
Bottom line, The Forever Knight is an enthralling adventure, one that I would encourage anyone reading heroic or epic fantasy to go and pick up immediately.