Review | Forged in Shadow – Megan Haskell

About the Book

In the chaos of war, not all heroes shine. Some must rise from shadows to claim the light. 

As the youngest son of the greatest smith of the fae, Curuthannor should be aspiring to the forge. Instead, he would rather wield a blade than craft one. When the high elf king commissions a powerful enchanted sword requiring iron found only in the subterranean goblin mines of the Shadow Realm, Curuthannor seizes the opportunity to earn a place in the smithy that doesn’t require a hammer. But when dark elf treachery interferes, the lives of his entire family could be at risk…for the high elf king is unmerciful and will not suffer disobedience.

Especially from his own daughter.

Lhéwen is honored to be the only handmaiden selected to attend the high elf princess on what she believes is a diplomatic delegation to the dark elf king. She doesn’t realize it could be a one-way trip. While the princess forges an escape from her father’s ruthless will, Lhéwen is trapped in a foreign land. Betrayed and alone, Lhéwen discovers it is her own quiet power that may free—or doom—them all.

For when the pen fails, the sword will take its place. 

428 pages (kindle)
Published on April 6, 2020
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I tend to gravitate toward stories where the protagonists aren’t doing what they should be doing. They aren’t toeing the prescribed line. Maybe it’s because, in some way, on some level, I can relate to that. I was supposed to go to school and become a nurse. Instead, I ended up an author and an editor. This is much more my speed, but I spent my entire life growing up hearing about how I was going to go into nursing, and the world needs nurses. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I just do not have the fortitude for such a career, and I’ve found my happy place editing and authoring. The disappointment of my parents, father specifically, was keenly felt.

I’ve felt it. I understand it. I know it.

So, when I started reading this book, Curuthannor stood out to me right away. He’s the son of the greatest smith of the fae. He should be aspiring to take after his father, preparing to be a smith just like family dictates. Instead, he wants something else entirely. He wants to weld the sword. He wants to fight. He wants the spray of blood and pain. The division here between what a person should want, and what they actually want, was very well done. While it doesn’t dominate the book, it was realistic enough for me to read these parts, this tug-of-war between what he wants and what his father wants for him, and feel very real, very soul-keep connection there.

Soon, things start roaring along. The king has commissioned a sword made from metal only found in the subterranean goblin mines of the shadow realm, and Curunthannor, seeing his chance to go on a quest, takes it. 

As one would anticipate, nothing ends up as simple as this. Soon he finds himself at the center of a web of intrigue where no decision is a simple one and everything has unpredictable implications.

The other major plot thread is told by Lhéwen, who has her own quiet kind of power. Her plot thread is full of political intrigue and the dynamics of shifting loyalty as she, a seamstress, learns she has the potential to change absolutely everything, if she so chooses. Lhéwen took me a bit more time for me to warm up to, but once her storyline really got going, I was completely enchanted by her, and by this very different aspect of the world than is presented in Curunthannor’s storyline. While not being in power herself, her place next to all these powerful people gives readers an interesting perspective into the machinations at play here that we would otherwise lack.

Soon, the storylines of Lhéwen and Curunthannor intertwine, and these two unsuspecting individuals learn the fate of realms, plural, sits on their shoulders. Both characters are pushed out of their comfort zones, and forced to make decisions that may be uncomfortable, and may have ramifications far beyond anything either of them anticipated. It was grand to see how both characters start out on relatively equal footing: unhappy, yearning for something else, set on a certain path. Then, as events transpire, things shift and they both end up being so much more than they ever thought, with the fate of entire peoples hanging in the balance.

The question of loyalty, to self and to others, in a lot of ways, is the core of this book, and I loved how Haskell danced around it, making me look at it in different ways, in different lights.

The setup here is intricate and well balanced. This is a complex world, and in Forged in Shadow, we really only see the setup for what will certainly be a sprawling, multi-layered conflict, with both sweeping vistas and plenty of nuance and detail to keep it all in perspective. The conflict between shadow and light is just being set up in this book, and I can see from the way the author is setting all her pieces on the gameboard, it’s going to be grand indeed, and told from the perspective of well-crafted characters I actually care about who have to grapple with world-altering high stakes.

The prose was very well done, each phrase carefully chosen and written in such a way they brought the world to blazing life in my mind’s eye as I read. The characters were multi-facetted, and the fact that author managed to genuinely make me care about who I was reading about made me feel personally invested in what was happening in this book. I could feel Haskell’s passion for her story, which is important to me. If I can tell the author loves the yarn they are spinning, then it elevates the entire thing to a whole other level.

Forged in Shadow is an epic adventure in every sense of the word, kicking off a series that is certain to be just as grand, just as sprawling, textured, and nuanced as the best epic fantasy out there. This is a world steeped in fantasy, and filled with magic, where decisions, even the smallest ones, create ripples that will impact entire societies. 

This, dear reader, is epic fantasy with heart.

4/5 stars