Seven Forges - James A. Moore 4 stars at The BiblioSanctum

I really, really liked Seven Forges. Still, I'll admit the book had me rolling with the punches for most of it. It left me cold for a long time, waiting for something awesome to happen, something to make me perk up and say, "Hey, now we're onto something."

A lot of this has to do with the book's pacing, which is probably slower than I'd have preferred. I noticed while reading, for example, that even at more than halfway in, I was still treading in territory already covered by the blurb in the back of the book: a group from Fellein makes first contact with the mysterious warrior people of the Seven Forges mountains called the Sa'ba Taalor, and the expedition leader Merros Dulver brings a small entourage of them home with him.

Of course, there were other developments along the way, but not many that helped me tease out what was supposed to be the main conflict, even as I was well into the book. The world James A. Moore created here is highly imaginative and the characters and cultures are intriguing, but I still wasn't seeing what all the fuss was about.

And then, all of a sudden, everything changed. Unexpected plot twists, shocking revelations, total chaos. Everything I thought I was signing on for when I picked up this book, I got. The only catch is? All this only started occurring in the last fifty pages or so.

The question is then, can the final 10-15 percent of a book be so incredibly awesome as to impress me enough turn my opinion completely around? I struggled with this question and as a result also struggled with my review, but in the end, I have to say yes. And I don't come to this decision lightly; very rarely does a book redeem itself in my eyes simply for having an extraordinary ending, but somehow this one manages. I went from feeling generally unaffected to being completely absorbed.

I don't want to make it sound like I wasn't enjoying myself at all before this point, though. I felt the book took its time getting to the meat of the conflict, yes, but even so, all the while I had the sense that it was there all along, just building up in a slow burn. Looking back now, I see that the bulk of this book reads like a very long introduction, all leading up to the point where the conflict finally ignites. And when it does, it happens in a very powerful, explosive way.

Speaking of which, James A. Moore is in his element when he is writing scenes with fighting and big battles, and his strength is definitely in crafting very realistic, frenetic action sequences. On the other hand, areas I felt needed more attention included character development and dialogue. For example, Desh Krohan the emperor's sorcerer was someone I was very interested in, but would have also loved to see more exploration into his character. He talks a lot about what his powers are capable of, but even now, I'm not entirely sure what sort of magic he does and what the nature of it is.

I suppose all that will come in time, in subsequent books in this series. There's a lot of untapped potential when it comes to the characters, but at the same time I see things moving in the right direction. Even now I think a hero is emerging in Andover Lashk, a character whose place I wasn't sure of at the beginning, but now I see the author is actually raising him up in a very unique and unprecedented way, one I think I'll enjoy watching.

Mission accomplished, Mr. Moore, you have me practically on pins and needles for the next installment.