Ice Forged – Gail Z. Martin

About the Book

Condemned as a murderer for killing the man who dishonored his sister, Blaine “Mick” McFadden has spent the last six years in Velant, a penal colony in the frigid northern wastelands of Edgeland. Harsh military discipline and the oppressive magic of the governor’s mages keep a fragile peace as colonists struggle against a hostile environment. But the supply ships from Dondareth have stopped coming, boding ill for the kingdom that banished the colonists.

Now, McFadden and the people of Velant decide their fate. They can remain in their icy prison, removed from the devastation of the outside world, but facing a subsistence-level existence, or they can return to the ruins of the kingdom that they once called home. Either way, destruction lies ahead…

592 pages (paperback)
Published on January 8, 2013
Published by Orbit
Author’s webpage

This book was provided for me to review by the publisher. 

You can purchase a copy of this book by clicking on the following links: Ice Forged (The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga), Ice Forged (The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga) – Kindle


Martin is up against a lot of odds in her book Ice Forged. There are a lot of ideas in this book that have been done before. For example, an exiled individual with a mysterious past, the end of the world, a group who struggle against all odds to right things, betrayals, politics and various other things that will pop out to readers on occasion. These things that have been done before might be the largest hurdle Martin has to face with readers of this new series of hers. While there are enough unique aspects in Ice Forged to keep readers going, whether or not the book sticks with them, or wows them with its unique qualities is another question entirely – one only readers can answer for themselves.

While I know Martin has several books under her belt, this is the first of her books I’ve had a chance to read. It’s obvious that she’s a tried and true author. Her pacing is spot on, her writing is fluid, and she’s descriptive without going overboard. All of this works together to make Ice Forged a book that will be a surprisingly fast read, with a world that really comes to life for the reader. In fact, in matters of world building, Martin really goes above and beyond. She thinks through many of the challenges that the exiled individuals in the far north would face, and how they might band together to face them. Month long days and nights cause interesting social dynamics in the community that I wouldn’t have even thought about if it hadn’t been for Martin exploring these ideas.

Mixed with the unique and interesting life of the colonists in Edgeland, is the story of Connor, a servant and sort of spy for a royal in Dondareth. Martin briefly introduces readers to the politics of court, which is pretty much what you’d expect. Dondareth is ruled by a king, there are dukes and lords and plenty of spying and betrayals. Throw in a few mages for good measure and you have a pretty typical fantasy governmental system. Where Martin differs, is that there really isn’t any stability when we are introduced to Dondareth. War is brewing, and our time with Connor is all in preparation for this war.  This is where some of Martin’s characters are introduced that might not work so well with some readers.

Vampires. Yes, you read that right. Ice Forged involves vampires. Now, in my personal opinion, before this book I hadn’t yet read about vampires in an epic fantasy setting, so they didn’t bother me in the least. However, some readers might take issue with them. Vampires are a rather exhausted trope. They’ve been done and done again. While Martin’s vampires aren’t the glorious hunks who make women swoon, like you’ll find in many other books, they are still vampires, and that alone might annoy people. The only aspect of these vampires that did bother me, is with world building. When an author is creating a world from scratch, he or she has the potential to create whatever kind of creature (s)he wants, so why fall back on something like vampires? While I didn’t really understand the choice, despite my minor reservations, they work well in the storyline.

Epic fantasy can be difficult. I’d assume it’s incredibly hard to write, and it can be hard for fans of epic fantasy to find epic fantasy books that are incredibly unique are, in my experience, hard to find. While this tends to annoy me on some level, a lot of fans of epic fantasy really don’t mind some similarities in storylines. If the world is unique enough, and characters are interesting enough, who cares? However, Martin’s story does follow some very been-there-done-that epic fantasy paths. For example, the exiled royal, a band of loyal friends who stand up against all odds to right a horrible wrong, a quest/adventure into strange territory, a “chosen one” (of sorts) and the like. While that might not bother a lot of readers, and indeed it does make this book easier to read as readers won’t really have to struggle with foreign concepts and ideas quite as much, it might feel a bit less unique than many individuals might expect.

(Minor spoiler warning… but I’m not sure how else to say these things without minor spoilers. If spoilers bother you, ignore the following paragraph. Though I try to be a vague as possible.)

Perhaps my biggest quibble with Ice Forged is the handling of some events. For example, what happens to Dondareth happens incredibly fast with very little warning or explanation, making much of the previous war talk and worry seem rather useless and time wasting. On the same vein, the book doesn’t really end as much as it just stops. While the plot is fast moving, and Martin’s pacing is wonderful, there are times in the book were events just seem to happen without any real explanation or preparation. They feel a little out of place and thus, a tad bit unbelievable.

(End of spoiler)

That being said, Ice Forged was a quick, fun read. While there isn’t much that separates it from a lot of other epic fantasy, Martin sets a firm foundation for the rest of the series. Fans of epic fantasy, who are willing to overlook some been-there-done-that aspects of the book, will probably really enjoy Ice Forged. It’s one of those books that will make people remember why they love the genre so much in the first place. There’s something to be said about a fight against all odds, and strong hope in dark times. Martin sets a wonderful stage and colors it with loveable characters, and brings to life a wonderful world with her smooth prose. While the book isn’t perfect, it is a good introduction to a promising series.


3/5 stars

4 Responses

  • Thanks, Sarah. I haven’t tried her fiction, yet, although I have been curious about it.

    • This seems to be a good place to start with her stuff. It’s where I’m starting, and I don’t feel like I entered into her work at any weird place, if that makes sense.

  • bryek

    The vampires seem to be a constant with Martin. They were in her first series as well as this one and the are pretty much mirrors of each other so I assume Martin has a thing for them. But I agree with your review, a lot of stuff felt weird. Like Grimur. He was much too convienent and what does he do in the summer?

    If you wanted a good place to start with Martin’s work I would go with he first book The Last Summoner

    • I wasn’t aware that there were vampires in all of her books. Huh… that’s interesting to me.

      Thanks for the suggestion on a good starting point. I think I’ll pick that up fairly soon. While this book didn’t “wow” me, it did make me want to explore more of her work.

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