Since it made very little sense to run a contest on a forthcoming fantasy novel without its book review, it was decided that the review needed to be posted now instead of closer to the book's release date. . .
I met David Forbes on the message boards at www.sffworld.com. Before long, I agreed to review his upcoming fantasy novel. Published by HarperCollins, The Amber Wizard will be published at the end of March. Knowing how hard it can be for new writers to receive some exposure, I promised Forbes that -- if I found his book to my liking -- I would do my best to spread the word around.
The worlbuilding is superior to that of a majority of fantasy series out there. And the funny thing is that Forbes only offers us a glimpse of his universe. Yet there are numerous hints which indicate that there is definitely more depth to Osseria than what we discover within the pages of The Amber Wizard. The author possesses a fine eye for details, which is another feather in his cap. And during the Sundering and Dian's Stair scenes, the imagery is akin to that of Stephen R. Donaldson's classic Covenant books.
When one reads the work of a new author, you always attempt to figure out which writers he or she reminds you of. Oddly enough, I was unable to do just that with Forbes. Not that his writing is alien or exotic; it's just that I could not put my finger on anyone in particular. However, at least at the beginning of the tale, The Amber Wizard feels a lot like Tad Williams' Shadowmarch.
The characterizations are adequate. I get the feeling that the author played it safe, and that we'll learn a little more about the different characters in the sequels. Although there are a lot of hints pertaining to things to come, there is little character growth in this book. The only negative aspect of the characterizations would have to be that the siblings' rivalry is rather cliché. With the overachieving older brother doing everything he can to please a demanding father; the younger brother attempting to emulate the eldest, but never quite able to reach that level; the beautiful, smart, perceptive older sister -- the bitch; and the younger sister -- their father's favorite, she is not as good-looking, but extremely intelligent. Now, that doesn't take anything away from the story, yet I thought it was a little too easy.
The pace is brisk enough, at times too fast for my taste. It certainly keeps you turning those pages. On the other hand, I felt that Forbes should have dwelled a little more on a number of sequences. Especially those concerning the period of time two characters spent at Hethnost, where they study to become wizards. Well, almost overnight, it seems, it looks as though they have become veterans.For those readers who enjoy a lot of action, there are enough battle scenes to satisfy everyone!
Another facet of The Amber Wizard which should please fantasy fans is the fact that it's a self-contained story. Although the opening chapter of a much larger tale, it reads as a stand-alone book.
As far as shortcomings are concerned, there is nothing major to report. The only aspect which I found annoying at times was the numerous "Perry Mason" scenes, where characters just sit down to discuss what just occurred. I am acutely aware that this was done to make sure that everything was clear in the reader's mind. But in my opinion, they were irrelevant. The storylines are engaging, the plotlines are interesting, the pace is good; I felt that they should let the story tell itself instead of trying to explain every little thing, especially since it did not require any clarification. Those scenes simply broke the rhythm of the novel. As a reader, I wanted to learn what happened next, not to dwell on what had just taken place to make sure I understood what was going on. My only other complaint would have to be that the characters think too much. The narrative always elaborates on their mindsets. So it was more or less nonpertinent to have them "think" direct thoughts (in italic) afterward, when the narrative had just demonstrated how they felt. I felt that the author should elect to go with one or the other, but not the two together. My personal preference would have to be the narrative, which I found relatively fluid throughout the novel.
Forbes closes the show with an unexpected -- and quite satisfying -- ending. For the last hundred pages or so, I thought I could see the ending coming from a mile away. But the author has a few tricks up his sleeve, and he totally misdirected me. And I am now curious to read the sequel.
Newcomer David Forbes offers us a solid effort. Indeed, The Amber Wizard makes a fine addition to any fantasy collection. Plus, the fact that it's being released in paperback makes purchasing it affordable to all readers. To learn more, check out www.davidforbes.net.
Like Brandon Sanderson last year, David Forbes shows a lot of potential, and could well become one of the bright new voices in the fantasy genre. And there is never too many of those! He is definitely someone to keep an eye on. . .
The final verdict: 7.5/10