The Silent Army by James A Moore

the silent armyThe Silent Army is the fourth installment of what is turning out to be quite an epic fantasy series by James A Moore.  If you haven’t started the series yet then please be aware that this review will undoubtedly contain spoilers for the previous books in the series.  Also, if you do plan on starting this series I would strongly suggest starting from the beginning in order to really get a feel for all the characters and their different allegiances.

The conclusion of the last book was incredibly dramatic with the Silent Army rising to defend Canhoon (or the City of Wonders, as it is also known) against attack from the Sa’ba Taalor.  At the same time the army of the Sa’ba Taalor are on the move, their strategies are in place and although the events at the conclusion of No.3 caused them a momentary blip nothing is unsurmountable to them.  Or at least so it seems.  Ruthless, determined and with their Gods constantly feeding them guidance they are a force to be feared and they sweep across the land terrorising and transforming it in their wake.

Meanwhile we become re-acquainted with Andover Lashk and his companions who travelled to The Mounds to find out their secrets and probably found out a little more than they bargained for.  Andover is finally coming to terms with his own destiny.  He’s changed massively since we first met him and is no longer the quiet and fearful character who was so easy to beat into submission.  His companions – Tega, Nolan and Drask have all been equally affected by the Mounds and are also trying to understand what exactly these changes mean for them and the role they will play in the future.

The City of Wonders is also undertaking it’s own personal journey.  As well as trying to formulate war strategies and protect all the people that have flooded into Canhoon it seems that the City is experiencing it’s own difficulties in terms of mysterious deaths, riots and poisonings.

It is difficult to review this book without giving too much away.  Again Moore manages to pull a number of completely unexpected surprises out of the bag – particularly towards the end of the book – which give a whole new meaning to the war that is taking place.  Maybe everything isn’t quite as it first seemed and I’m certainly keen to read on and find out more!  I’m assuming (or hoping) that there is more of course.

What I can talk about is the Silent Army which I thought was a great creation.  A stone army that can literally melt into or appear out of the stone walls.  As an army they are quite formidable, they don’t bleed and they feel no fear – however, the slight drawback is they seem to dance to their own tune.  That being said, at the moment their own motivations seem to be to protect the Empress so that makes them a great asset.

I won’t go into too much more detail.  I can say that this story seems to become more intriguing with each instalment, in fact this is far from what it at first appeared to be – a story of war driven by the desire to seek revenge.

This is another strong book in the series.  On balance, I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite out of the series, it has a little bit of a feel of getting from one place to another place in order for another revelation to be made.  But, in spite of that this is still a strong instalment with no shortage of action and Moore is excellent at writing dramatic fight and battle scenes.

I would certainly recommend this series.

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Review: City of Wonders by James A Moore

Posted On 20 November 2015

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25383154 (1)(Review first appears at the Speculative Herald)

City of Wonders is book three in James A Moore’s Seven Forges series (Seven Forges being No.1 and The Blasted Lands No.2).  Seven Forges got off to a very intriguing start, The Blasted Lands built strongly on that foundation and left us with a rather jaw dropping finish then City of Wonders came along and left  no doubt that this series is firmly planted in the land of Epic.  Truly this is turning into a series to be reckoned with.

I’m not really going to go over much into the plot because it’s going to be very easy to spoil elements of the story that are best revealed as the tale progresses and, whilst talking of spoilers, although I try to avoid them it’s quite possible that this review may contain some revelations for the first two books so please be aware of that.  Also I would say that in order to enjoy the world created by Mr Moore you should start from book No.1 – at least I think so.

At the start of the story war is upon the Fellein Empire and masses of people are seeking refuge in Old Canhoon (or the City of Wonders as it is also known).  The Sa’ba Taalor are swarming the borders and seem virtually unstoppable killing everything in their path.  It seems like they’re not content just to kill their enemies, they seem to want to completely obliterate any trace of their existence.

Firstly, a little about the Sa’ba Taalor.  This is a fearless and mighty race of warriors who seem to bare deep hatred towards the Fellein Empire and would see it destroyed.  They’re not taking prisoners here but are aiming for complete annihilation.  This is a race of men and women that are ruthless.  They are unforgiving and value strength and courage above all other traits.  Grey skinned and with their faces partially covered by a veil (the nature of which is revealed at the end of book No.2) they may come across as somewhat unorganised in terms of appearance and attitude.  They wear no uniform as such, they forge their own weapons to suit their own particular style and taste and so there are no great swathes of co-ordinated swords and shields.  They don’t march in formation and to all intents and purposes they appear almost unformed and unruly.  And yet this couldn’t be further from the truth.  The Sa’ba Taalor put great faith in their Gods and follow and obey them without question and in that respect their Gods orchestrate everything.  They guide each of the leaders into whatever step is necessary next, placing them like pieces on a game board, until eventually they’ve maneouvered all the pieces into position for a perfect finish.

We follow a number of different stories which may at first seem a bit perplexing but pretty soon resolve themselves into a plan of quiet huge scope.   We watch the Empress and Merros Dulver as they try to brace for battle, shoring up the defences and preparing the army, aided in no small way by Desh Krohan and his magical counterparts.  We take a different route as we follow a small and beleaguered team of characters looking to uncover a secret, potentially a weapon that could assist in the defeat of the Sa’ba Taalor or then again maybe something the Sa’ba Taalor are also seeking.  We continue to follow Andover Lashk as he visits the Gods in their forges and we also watch the Pilgrim as he gathers about him an army of followers who also march to the city of Old Canhoon.

The world building is really quite unique and to be honest fascinating.  We range from places where the people seem to live not only in harmony with, but dependent upon, a huge ‘mother’ vine.  We visit a city where to raise a weapon against the inhabitants results in rather dramatic results to the perpetrators.  We come upon all manner of mighty and destructive creatures, watch necromancy in motion and spend time with one particular individual whose constant companion is a ghost.  And in spite of all the aforementioned the real show stealer is the City of Wonders itself – which it turns out is very appropriately named.

In terms of action this is a fast paced and battle packed book.  In fact I can’t deny that it’s kind of grim reading in parts when it seems like nothing can stop the unstoppable force of the Sa’ba Taalor as they march forward leaving bodies in their wake.  In fact for me one of the criticisms I had with the book is that it’s almost difficult to form attachments to the characters and in that respect I’m not sure who I would say are my favourites.  To an extent I like the King, Tuskandru and also Drask (who was one of the first characters we met).  Or maybe like isn’t the right word because these certainly aren’t soft and cuddly characters.  They’re both ruthless and fierce but this is in their nature so feels true somehow.  Not very well explained perhaps, it’s just that they’re not acting in a particularly nasty or malicious way just more keeping in character.  I liked Merros from the start and his character has definitely developed and become stronger and well respected – he’s even developing more of a friendship with Desh, who we are also starting to gain a little more information about albeit in tiny glimpses.   I think this is perhaps the one area of the series that I think could be built on a little.  We seem to have quite strong world building and a good deal of focus on the swordplay and fighting but I would like to spend a little more time with some of the characters.  That being said there was a lot going on here and quite a few threads to follow so something has to give.

On the whole this is a series that seems to become stronger with each book.  There is plenty of scope, a good deal of action.  Fearsome characters and a unique world with plenty of surprises in store.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

The Blasted Lands by James A Moore

The Blasted Lands is the second book in the Seven Forges series written by James a Moore.   My review of The Seven Forges is here.  Now, if you haven’t read No.1 in the series you should be warned that this review will undoubtedly contain spoilers for that book!  Be warned.  The first book in the series got off to a really good start.  I had a few niggles and I can’t say I was in love with the cliffhanger ending – given the waiting time to find out what was going to happen next – but, the wait was worth it.  This book builds very effectively on the first in the series and does not suffer at all from ‘second book’ syndrome.  On the contrary, the world building was much improved.  The characters more developed.  And, some of the intrigue given explanation.

In the last book we were made familiar with the Empire of Fellein and it’s people and Emperor.  At the same time a band of characters travelled the Blasted Lands in pursuit of knowledge of the Seven Forges where they met a race of previously unknown people – the Sa’ba Taalor.  I’m not going to recap all of the previous story – just suffice to say it ended with the Empire and the people of the Seven Forges looking set to go to war.  A quick recap of characters – Desh (The Magician), Merros (a soldier – now made General), the sisters (magical assistants to Desh), Tega (magical apprentice to Desh), Andover, (from the Fellein empire – lost both of his hands in an attack and received a strange gift from one of the Gods of the Seven Forges), Tusk – a king of the Sa’ba Taalor.

The Blasted Lands continues with Andover’s journey, as an ambassador of Fellein to the Seven Forges where he will meet not only the people but the Gods they worship.  He’s going to face trials and hardship along the way and in doing so will introduce us to this strange race of people who are so devoted to the serving of their Gods that they literally have no fear of death itself.  This is a really interesting race of people.  Their way of life is simple.  They live by fairly strict codes.  They answer to their Gods implicitly, some serving only one whilst others serve a number.  I’m still not quite sure what to make of Andover.  In one respect I’m hoping that he will be an intermediary between the two races but on the other he seems so overwhelmed by the way in which the Sa’ba Taalor have accepted him amongst their people that it seems quite possible that he could be used by them in some way and simply go along with things in order to feel part of something.  I confess even after finishing the book I’m still unsure as to what his eventual purpose will be but the journey he has made so far has certainly been fascinating and held a number of revelations – not least of which uncovering the reason why the Sa’ba Taalor hide their faces behind a veil.  I won’t say more!

Back in Fellein Merros, Desh and the new Empress (Nachia, cousin to the murdered Emperor) are making preparations for war – not easy with a nation that has gone soft of course and impeded by rumours of black ships attacking other parts of the empire and strange foretellings of doom by the ‘sooths’.  Not to mention attacks by strange monsters that seem to be the result of necromancy.

The Sa’ba Taalor are not of course standing idle.  They are making their own plans and what is intriguing is that they all go about separate missions, directed by whichever God or Gods they serve and yet their ultimate purpose seems to serve the same goal.  This is a ruthless set of people, cold blooded, unafraid, frankly quite scary and tough as old boots – not to mention they’ve got a few tricks up their sleeves when it comes to tackling any wounds they receive during the course of any skirmishes they encounter and a few ways of blending into a group or crowd of people unnoticed.  There is also a bigger picture here that is revealed at the end of the book and uncovers a little bit more background – only a little, almost a teaser, but still quite a light bulb moment.

I enjoyed the first book in the series but without doubt thought this was better.  In fact I really had no quibbles at all.  I suppose you could argue there maybe isn’t as much action in this instalment but in spite of that it’s still a fast paced novel and the world building and time spent with each character definitely adds extra value.

I received a copy of this from the publisher through Net Galley.  The above is my own opinion.

I’m submitting this for my Once Upon a Time event under the heading of ‘fantasy’.  Stop over to Stainless Steel Droppings to check out this event.

 

Seven Forges by James A Moore

Posted On 17 September 2013

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Just finished reading Seven Forges by James A Moore.  I really enjoyed this.  It starts out by totally grabbing your attention and pretty much doesn’t relent for the rest of the novel.

At the start of the story Captain Merros Dulver is leading a party of people on an expedition to map the Seven Forges – a large, previously unexplored mountain range.  The country they cross is barren and the weather is fierce and at the start of the story the soldiers are preparing to try and repel an attack from some of the massive and savage creatures that hunt in this part of the country.

The Empire of Fellein controls most of the land.  The Seven Forges lie on the fringes and have remained un-passable due to their wild and desolate nature.  They are the legacy, presumably, of some sort of Cataclysmic event which left the land uninhabitable for many many years and are now plagued by furious storms, freezing temperatures and conditions so harsh that nobody lives there.  Well, that was the previously held suspicion.  As it turns out the Seven Forges are home to a race of people not previously encountered and following a chance meeting with Merros these people accompany him back to try and form a pact with the Emperor.

Of course, things can never be quite as simple, or as friendly as first suspected can they?  This new race of people, the Sa’ba Taalor worship the Gods of War.  They are a statuesque race, trained in the art of fighting and warfare as soon as they are capable of holding a sword they’re trained in it’s use. They are largely unforgiving as a race, their every action is dictated by the gods (seven, one for each Forge) that they worship and it could be that they intend more than to form a peaceful treaty.

They enter the Empire where the army have become complacent and lethargic with nothing to keep them occupied or sharp and the Court are more concerned with a few trivial rivalries and what colours of silk should be worn this week than protecting their realm.  The contrast in the two is quite acute.  We have a small band of highly trained, efficient warriors, completely fearless and who actually enjoy conflict compared to a large sprawling, almost ramshackle, disorganised and undisciplined army.  It feels a little bit like inviting a lion into the hen house for a nice cup of tea!  Hey, lions could drink tea – if they wanted!

There are a number of threads or stories that we follow.  Captain Dulver, or Merros.  His arrival was anticipated by the Sa’ba Taalor although the reason behind that is still a mystery – to me at least.  Merros is no longer a soldier and finds a living being hired as a mercenary.  He is of course accompanied by his trusty friend and sidekick Wollis.  I actually liked this pair.  They probably don’t break the fantasy mould in any way but they’re easy to read about and quite amusing in parts.  Upon their return to the empire the two are split.  Merros accompanies a small company of the Sa’ba Taalor to an outlying village where trouble is brewing on one of the islands off its coast.  Tales seem to be spinning out of control there and nobody really seems to know what is truly taking place.

We also have the story of a young boy called Andover who after being viciously punished by the town’s Watch is left with terrible injuries.  His plight comes to the attention of the visitors who bestow upon him a most unusual and unconventional gift.  Andover is besotted with a young girl who serves as apprentice to the Wizard advisor.  The two of them will eventually be asked to return to the Seven Forges on behalf of the empire.

And, of course, we have the everyday goings on at the palace – where things have been turned a bit upside down with the arrival of these new people.  I’ve probably made that sound a good deal more pedestrian than it really is.  There’s plenty of action here, particularly considering the length of the novel and perhaps the world building could have been a little stronger although personally I felt I had a good feeling for the general layout and I respect that the author was trying to keep a sense of mystery about this strange new world and it’s inhabitants.

In terms of characters, like I said, I quite liked Merros and Wollis.  Andover, I’m not sure about at this point.  I think he definitely suffers some weaknesses in character and that could be why the Sa’ba Taalor are so interested in him – perhaps they think he will be easily manipulated. Desh the Wizard is something of an enigma.  Apparently hundreds of years old and surrounded by all manner of stories about his past, none of which can be easily confirmed or denied, everybody fears him, even the Emperor.  He is assisted by three sisters – again, not too much information or back story on these three at the moment but again, maybe that will be examined in future stories.  And we have the Sa’ba Taalor, Drask and Tusk being the central characters.  All of them are larger than life.  They have no qualms about taking the course of action they think best in any situation.  They are basically, confident, self assured fighting machines.  Strangely – all of them cover their faces with cloth masks which they never remove – obviously we’ll find out why that is at some point (perhaps they have smelly breath!! or maybe they have rows and rows of sharp pointy demon teeth or long lizardy tongues!)

On the whole I thought this was an enjoyable and entertaining read.  I did have a couple of minor criticisms, for example, the three glamorous assistants – one blond, one auburn one dark haired – why was that really necessary.  And, what I mean by that is why do they all have to be at one end of the spectrum in terms of hair colour and why do they all have to be beautiful – other than as some kind of distraction for Merros!  Okay, just to be clear here, I don’t have anything against beautiful people it just seems a bit too much that he’s surrounded by these gorgeous women who are also very magical – reads more like a wish list   Also, at the start of the story, and I’m not going to give too much away here, but we end up with Merros and his company following Drask – now what I can’t understand is that in later comments Drask says he was looking for Merros – so why was he riding away from the band of travellers?  I’m pretty sure I’ve missed something fundamental there so if anyone want’s to pounce all over this with an explanation then be my guest.

Other than my couple of niggles I thought this was really intriguing, it’s a fast paced story and fairly short for a novel of this type of scope.  I suppose a little more detail wouldn’t have gone amiss although to be frank I didn’t feel that the story suffered as a result.  I will definitely pick up the next novel to see what happens in this world.  The Sa’ba Taalor are very interesting and I’m keen to see how the other characters develop.  Actually I’m gagging to know what is under these mysterious face cloths – perhaps it will just be normal everyday faces – that would be a bit of a giggle wouldn’t it! (Note to author:  I could have done without the monumental cliffhanger – just saying).

I received a copy of this from NetGalley in response for a honest review.  The above is my own opinion.  Also, what about Angry Robots.  So many good books coming out of their house at the moment!