I will start by saying, that the author's style, in some respects reminded me of Terry Goodkind, and he was an author whose work I really enjoyed, so needless to say, for me this was a good read.
The author creates a multitude of diverse characters, and the story follows three main ones whose journey takes them on very different paths; this of course means we are presented with a rare opportunity to witness different events, and piece together the information each of them know to come to a greater understanding about what exactly is happening on Aona. I particularly enjoyed how real the characters were, each of them, as any one does, has their own vices and flaws, which play a role in shaping them.
Throughout the story we learn much of the world and the conflicts of old, there has clearly been a great deal of thought put into the races, their backgrounds, alliances, and history, not to mention the plot, which ties everything together so well.
I can't really put too much about the story and events, as they will spoil the reading experience for anyone who buys it, but it is certainly well presented and drives the reader forward. Last night I was so close to the end I couldn't bring myself to put it down as I just had to know what happened, this of course meant a very late night for me, but it was worth every minute.
I would recommend this book to adults who enjoy reading fantasy, especially fantasy with a darker twist.
Oblivion’s Forge, the first instalment of the Aona Trilogy, is a highly original work free of the clichéd characters one expects of a fantasy work. Instead the author populates this cold, bitter, hostile and dilapidated world with deeply flawed, all too human individuals. The main protagonist , Vornen, is an individual banished and disowned by his own people, someone cursed with Gate sight, the ability to see portals between dimensions, and ‘a violent madman … a lunatic and a wastrel’ as his old enemy Rocan sees him. He’s also someone who feels an intense emptiness within, something he has tried to fill with drink, violence and the drug kyush. Amethyst meanwhile is a woman fated to forever wander and like Vornen is drawn to the gates whilst Jaana is a healer, one who has lost all faith in herself or her abilities. She is a broken character lost in self-doubt as all around madness and disease flourish.
A sense of latent menace pervades the entire novel and we soon discover something ancient is trying to break through. These are the Marandaal, powerful beings who we suspect (like the Great Old Ones in H. P. Lovecraft) are seeking to return and destroy the petty humans who populate the earth. Much is made in this first instalment of light and darkness and if I have one criticism of the novel it is that the references become too frequent and repetitive. Yet this is only a small criticism. With these prophecies of the coming of the light, the author manages to capture a sense of religious mania, of awaiting a second coming. Visions abound in the novel as the Maraandal impress their minds on vulnerable mortals.
The narrative remains strong throughout and the pacing is excellent with a number of vividly described and widely different landscapes. I was particularly impressed with the ancient and forgotten citadel Mirkwall surrounded by “a vast swampland, clad in the perpetual grey of mist.” It is here the good wizard Fistelkarn’s enemy resides, the frail, decrepit and dying wizard Shimlock. The language here reaches dark, poetic heights and reminds me in many ways of another decaying structure, that of Roderick Usher’s, although even Poe never dreamt up the bizarre red phantom worms that crawl between the cracks of crumbling brick.
It is here, near the end that the ominous threat, although still un-glimpsed, becomes palpable as Fistelkarn senses the “black shapes” which have risen up from that place and “cast a burning frost upon the ground,” that is the madness, visions and disease that have been spreading through the villages. Yet just when we naively begin to assume we understand these beings there is a revelation at the end which comes as a major shock. It is a revelation guaranteed to compel you to want to read the second instalment.
World: The world of Aona is very intriguing, with a rich and long history, of which the reader gets enough of a peek at to draw one in. It’s a complex world – with various races and factions, magic users, peasants, tyrants and heroes. Most of whom don’t like one another much. Aona is a world of half-forgotten myth and ill-remembered gods. And it seems such mystical beings are set to return.
Oblivion’s Forge is dark, with a world on the edge of apocalypse, many people in thrall and prepared to do whatever it takes to please whichever religion/faction they serve. I’d say good and evil aren’t clear cut. Certainly a surprise twist where a villain becomes an unwitting hero shakes the reader’s ideas of good and evil, and who serves whom.
The author gives many hints of what is to come, who REALLY runs the show and a dark history. It helps to know this is the first book of the series, and so I hope unanswered questions will be addressed in later books.
Characters: There are a LOT of characters in this book, and some play a far greater role than others as one would expect. However the point of view jumps around and in places I found it hard to keep up with who was doing what. Vornen – the main male character is most interesting. He has a dark and mysterious past, which we learn a little about. Haunted by the Gates which have appeared he is not his own man, and he is quite fatalist (with good reason). I had a lot of time for this character, he is brave in his own way and decent, at least in a world which is being torn apart. His befriending of a lost pilgrim leads to monumental events. He also has his flaws, which makes him both worthy of pity and respect in equal measure.
The shifting point of view was distracting and unless I missed something (which is certainly possible) at least one of the characters seemed to disappear.
Writing: There is some wonderful imagery. The world is painted well enough to give the reader a taste but not too much that it detracts from the story telling. There were a few technical issues, but they were a few and overall didn’t diminish the reading experience for me. In places the prose is almost poetic.
On the downside I’d say the last couple of chapters where unnecessary – unless as a lead in for the later books. The problem was fixed – sort of – and suddenly a character we meet mid way, and doesn’t seem that important suddenly comes to the fore, with her master. It reads as the start of a new book, to me at least.
A good read with a rich, complex world, intriguing plot and fine characters. A bit hard to keep up with the rapidly shifting point of view (to be fair to the author I was reading this over a relatively long period) but certainly engaging enough to keep me reading. The plot itself pulled the reader in, as one found oneself cheering the heroes along as they struggled in a world of chaos and strife, and curious about what it was making the midden hit the windmill J.
I’d recommend this author for fans of dark fantasy, dystopia and dark fiction. I’ll be picking up Mr William’s other books for sure and continuing to learn about Aona's fate.
Author Simon Williams has skilfully created the dark world of Aona in the first of the epic series. It is a bleak medieval “other-world” of dark shadows and mysterious forces, where witches, sorcerers and warlocks abound. Among the many characters, Voren travels in search of The Gates which he is drawn towards; Amethyst is cursed by a witch to seek out a mysterious girl who resides within herself; Jaana laments the loss of her healing skills. Each have their own demons which they struggle to overcome. The story-line is intricate and some of the threads are woven together in a complex pattern. I had to step out of my genre to enter this mysterious world of dark fantasy, but I’m glad I did and found myself gradually but surely drawn into this epic tale. It has an apocalyptic theme with dark forces that emerge in shadowy forms, as the people of this world await madness and death. Oblivion’s Forge is only the first book of the Aona Series, and I look forward to reading the sequels and the final conclusion. A very absorbing read from a skilful author!
This book has an interesting peculiarity in that its greatest strength is also its potential Achilles’ Heel. Williams is in no rush to reveal his Aona to the reader and I rather enjoyed my slow immersion as I started exploring this new world with the three main characters: Roguish Vornen, unfortunate Amathyst and emphatic Jaana. The style reminded me of Williams’ Summer’s Dark Waters - written later but it was the first book by this author which I had read. Reviewing that book I wrote: “We don’t know much about the world. Enough to get by but that is all and suddenly the horizon….is shrouded by veils of mystery.” This pretty much applies to Oblivion’s Forge as well – we catch glimpses of a world from its wilder edges and Williams shows his craft in providing sufficient detail to supply the basis of imagery which the reader is allowed to colour in with their own imagination in spectacularly grim but fascinating places such as the hivelike Culvanhem and grimy Ethanalin Tur-morn. At first all we know is that Vornen, Amathyst and Jaana follow their paths in the same world without much indication as to their topographical presence vis-à-vis the others. Williams is not one for long-winded exposition – he allows a peek here and a glimpse there to be followed by a sudden short realisations before casting us out in the wilderness again. This experience is almost exactly what the characters are experiencing so it rings very true and slowly various puzzle pieces start to come together on various levels: Insight into the motivation of the main characters, a growing awareness of the manner in which the settings are connected with regard to topography and socio-economic factors as well as the dawning realisation that something is rotten in Aona. Rotten to the core. It is here that the reader starts to gain an advantage over the protagonists because we are allowed to see the collective puzzle pieces whilst they only have access to their own. That leads to an increasing curiosity as well as speculation: in other words, Williams has hooked you but used sparse bait leaving you wanting more and more. It is this process of assembling puzzle pieces that is a driving strength of Oblivion’s Forge . In order to meet the reader’s increased appetite to discover more about Aona Williams starts introducing secondary characters and suddenly we are released; free to move from place to place - including the ‘civilised’ cores of Aona - to witness more and more elements of a world which seems to be unravelling even as we begin to understand it. This is clever writing; these new perspectives drive the reader along faster and faster in the process of discovering a wider Aona and there is a sense that things are beginning to merge; brooks rushing headlong to join streams which start to converge into rivers. On those rivers, however, the three main characters have maintained their slower meandering course which means that towards the end of the book there is a need to shift gear which makes for a somewhat erratic narrative pace. That is the potential Achilles’ Heel of Oblivion’s Forge though Williams pulls it off because it fits into the context of the manner in which truths are revealed – not by means of a helicopter view provided by a handy news summary but through careful shifting through available facts and intriguing clues. That is made possible by the protagonists. Although these are distinctly different from each other they all share the determination to figure out what is going on and as a reader I felt I shared their tenacity in this. Williams is a master of exposition and I imagine him grinning evilly at the reader’s eagerness to put all the puzzle pieces together to satisfy yearning curiosity. In that Oblivion’s Forge ends with the reader fully committed to move to the second book of the Aona series: Secret Roads. My main complaint would be that my curiousity is far from satisfied; I want more Aona but I suspect that Williams, like any author, could only experience delight at that particular grumble. All-in-all Oblivion’s Forge is a must read for those searching for a fresh approach to fantasy. The harsh realities of Aona and Williams’s nitty-gritty style should appeal to readers tired of formulaic sterile elvish splendour, brave new worlds and flawless heroes. This stuff is real and I intend to return to Aona’s moody underbelly and stark austerity as soon as I can.
I really enjoyed reading Oblivion's Forge, it has all the essential elements of a good fantasy book: well written, believable characters who you engage with, mystery, suspense and a whole new world to discover! The story moves along at a good pace and is split into short chunks which move around between characters. This helps to create a good overall feel for a very different world and builds the background nicely. The end of the book introduces a few new elements, presumably to be explored in the next book and I can't wait to read that one. My favourite fantasy authors are George R R Martin (Game of Thrones) and Steven Ericksson (Malazan Empire), both extremely well written series and I am enjoying Simon Wiliiams' writing just as much, highly recommended!
Brilliant! This is an excellent fantasy story, the thread spread through the lives of many believable characters. Magic, battle and struggle, this book has it all and will force you to read on until its end. Cleverly written with great pros this piece of work flowed well from start to finish.
If you are a fan of fantasy then this book is for you - highly recommended.
Oblivion's Forge is an extremely well written book, with beautiful and evocative narration, multifaceted characters, and a complex storyline, that demands the readers' attention, and promises to yield a very satisfying story in return. It is not your typical fantasy "good versus evil" kind of book. Dark, raw and brutal, there is no sugar coating or romanticism in Oblivion's Forge, but a harsh reality that for the fantasy genre it's quite rare and refreshing. There are a lot of ideological undertones. The destructive nature of organised religion, politics and greed, the inhuman side of humanity, and the illusion of free will are amongst the few. All in all a very promising start to the Aona series. I look forward to the second instalment.
This book transported me from the get go into another world , very gripping and so enjoyable it made me think about it long after reading , looking forward to purchasing more of Simons books in the very near future , great read