Friday, July 13, 2018

Book Review: 'A Wizard's Forge (The Woern Saga Book 1)' by A.M. Justice

Brooklyn-based author A.M. Justice writes fantasy and science fiction the way she dreams her life. So typical of her infectious style of scribing tales is her author’s note at book’s end: A.M. Justice has danced tango beneath the wings of angels, played hide-and-seek with harbor seals, and sought distant galaxies from dusk to dawn. Hiking to a remote swimming hole, exploring an ancient cathedral, and sharing a good meal with friends are among her favorite things, but she likes nothing better than sitting with a cat on her lap while watching a beloved movie on TV. Five books in publication so far she already has been honored as Winner, First Place, Science Fiction/Fantasy, 2016 Writers Digest Popular Fiction Awards, Finalist, Science Fiction, 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and Honorable Mention, 2017 Reader's Favorite Book Awards.

A WIZARD’S FORGE is said by some to reflect the influence of the fairy tale Rapunzel, and it only takes a few lines to see her heroine Vic in that cast: ‘Vic had never been much of a sailor. When she was a child, the other children had laughed when she bent over the gunwale, paled-faced and shaking—their people were fisherfolk, after all. Now, stomach heaving, she gulped air through her mouth, trying not to smell the stench wafting from her dress. She squeezed her eyes shut and popped them open, as if the bursting stars behind her eyelids could bring real light into the ship’s hold. But eyes open or closed, the darkness remained, filled with sobbing and moans and terrified cries. She couldn’t close her ears to those. Nor could she ignore her wrenched gut, sapped dry by the tossing of the ship but still straining to empty itself of misery. “Don’t think about it,” she whispered over and over, hearing instead the laughter of schoolmates about her white face and shaking hands. Hands clenching her skirts, she clung to memories of jeering. They hadn’t laughed the day she’d passed her exams. That morning, the youth of Ourtown had looked at her with—respect, jealousy, admiration? She wasn’t sure. But being the youngest Logkeeper in history had to count for something. As Martha led her down the jaundstone path, her life had opened up. “Teach and preserve,” Martha said, when she handed Vic her own Logbook. “Until they come,” Vic had recited, so pleased with herself she nearly burst. Yet the rolling misery of the ship’s hold was so real she wondered if her past was a dream. Not caring whether it was, she pulled the memories over her head and let the darkness carry her home.’

The plot is justly complex: ‘Victoria of Ourtown, aka Vic the Blade, walks a bloody path toward revenge. Lornk, the Lord of Relm, will stop at nothing to gain not only Vic’s obedience but utter devotion, while Ashel, Prince of Latha, will sacrifice everything to ensure her freedom. When Lornk captures Ashel, Vic sets out to rescue him, and along the way obtains a power that will ensure the vengeance she craves but may also destroy the future she wants. A Wizard’s Forge is a unique alloy of science fiction and epic fantasy, with a strong female protagonist at its core. Readers will find elements of the classic science fiction of McCaffery, Herbert, and Heinlein, mixed with modern themes of sexual abuse and self-determination.’ ‘Vic’s journey from scholar to slave, warrior to wizard takes her from barren tundras to blistering desert, from a city rife with opulence and vice to a forest of trees that can tell the future. Follow Vic’s path toward revenge and explore Knownearth, the world she calls home.’

Rare writing – a blend of fantasy, wizardry, incorporating contemporary tough issues and resolving them well – indicates that here is an author worth reading and worth watch as she most decidedly will become a prominent voice in her chosen genre. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, June 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.