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Book Review: The Blasted Lands

The Blasted Lands by James A. Moore, Seven Forges #2

The Empire of Fellein is in mourning. The Emperor is dead, and the armies of the empire have grown soft. Merros Dulver, their newly-appointed – and somewhat reluctant – commander, has been tasked with preparing them to fight the most savage enemy the world has yet seen.

Meanwhile, a perpetual storm ravages the Blasted Lands, and a new threat is about to arise – the Broken are coming, and with them only Death.

Back in 2013 I read many great books of Angry Robot and one of them was Seven Forges by James A Moore. James A. Moore has written numerous books in the Horror genre and Seven Forges was his first venture into the Epic Fantasy and one that paid off very well. When I read Seven Forges I was amazed with the story, so many elements working together and you could clearly see that James A. Moore wasn't scared to bring in some Horror elements as well. As I said in my review of Seven Forges, it had the everyting: "a perfect story of political intrigue, brutal fighting, beguiling magic and assassinations." so just to say it simply really a book with the WOW factor. 

The Blasted Lands is the direct sequel to Seven Forges. In short, Seven Forges introduced the reader to the Empire of Fellein, somewhat to be compared to a normal human civilization and to the Sa'ba Taalor a ancient and very powerful warrior race. They thrive on battle. Merros was saved by a group of Sa'ba Taalor and took a retinue home to his Emperor, but it all turns sour very soon. The Empire of Fellein isn't the same anymore. because during this diplomatic mission, the Emperor of Fellein got murdered... James A. Moore gave a very alluring ending to Seven Forges forcing you to pick up The Blasted Lands one way or another. 

As with its predecessor the story of The Blasted Lands is divided into multiple perspectives. So again the story is told from the different sides, which for me is always a big plus, especially now, when a war is starting to steer. I always like it when I can read how both factions think about the same subject and how they act react against each other. Anyway, one perspective that we got to learn off last time was that of Merros Dulver, who brought the Sa'ba Taalor back to Fellein. Merros has now been promoted to commander of the armies of Fellein and must train the men to become competent in fighting as the Sa'ba Taalor. Well this is impossible to say the least. In some battles it takes long for the enemy to appear but the Sa'ba Taalor are skilled and news does reach Merros and the Fellein Empire that ships with black sails loom near. Questions also arise about the fact that all the warriors in the Fellein Empire might not be enough to stop the march of the Sa'ba Taalor. Desh Krohan, the mighty sorcerer and right hand man of the Empire also has his work cut out for him. He has to choose a suitable heir to the throne, next to this Desh and his "sisters" his spies are trying to figure out what the Sa'ba Taalor could possible want with the Fellein Empire, why they seek their destruction. Then there is Andover, who lost his hands in the first book, the Sa'ba Taalor gave them back, yes they can do that, but with a catch. They are made from iron. This gift game with a price, Andover is acting somewhat as an ambassador for the Fellein Empire, walking among the Sa'ba Taalor as they school him in their culture, which isn't always pretty though. Andover's storyline is very exposing for the Sa'ba Taalor, in terms that as a reader you learn a lot of the Sa'ba Taalor themselves, what their habits are and more importantly their Gods and how they are driven by them. As I already mentioned there is a storyline told from the Sa'ba Taalor side and that is Tusk, one of the Kings of the Sa'ba Taalor. His storyline somewhat coincides with that of Andover but it is different in terms of believes, you can clearly see that he is convinced about what the Sa'ba Taalor do is the right thing. His perspective really made the whole story a complete feeling. 

After this you might have lost the the direction of the book so let me capture it for you with a few sentences. The Fellein Empire is regaining strength after the assassination of the Emperor, Merros is leading the armies, and the cousin of the murdered Emperor is taking the throne. Meanwhile the Sa'ba Taalor are marching to the Fellein Empire to do their thing. But there is a chance of it all being talked out with a peaceful talk. Yes there was a chance... Some people just shouldn't be allowed to speak... (this doesn't do justice to The Blasted Lands) but is one of those book that when you talk about it too much it will be spoiled, hence it's the perfect sequel! James A. Moore puts down the pavement for the third book in this series and I just know it will be something spectacular. 

Now where The Blasted Lands draws a lot of strength from is exposition. I was really waiting for this to happen. In Seven Forges, James A. Moore did kind of throw you in the depths of his story, you had to adapt on the fly and take somethings for granted without explanations. Now I can take this to a certain degree, which was almost reached in Seven Forges, luckily for me an many other readers James A. Moore drops the infobomb about the Sa'ba Taalor in The Blasted Lands. I do not mean an excess information dump at all by the way. As I already mentioned by the many different perspectives of the story you learn a lot. the Seven Forges series is a story about war but also about different cultures and by introducing Fellein characters in the ways of the Sa'ba Taalor culture for example explanations need to come to show. And this James A. Moore wrote in a very natural way. But it is not only culture that is shown. You are also presented with new surroundings, they are harsh and brutal to live in. Just a tease, you know those veils that the Sa'ba Taalor were wearing, this question gets answered and I think most of you will guess wrong of what they hide. This is directly in the lines of Horror, bit gruesome but most fitting. Andover's storyline answered so many questions also what happened with another soldier...

I do have to say when it comes down to sequel of a terrific first book I always have reservations. The second book in a series either makes or breaks it. The Blasted Lands is a book that prepares the series for the conclusion. James A. Moore did a great job with The Blasted Lands, he got me readily fired up for the sequel, which I know will be just as a success. I know I don't have to be worried here!

The Blasted Lands is the example of how I want to see sequel. Slowing the pace down somewhat, focusing on exposing the envisioned world more and more but without loosing momentum and the thread that carries the story. James A. Moor gave rise to many questions in Seven Forges and now starts answering them, he continues to develop his characters and mainly Merros and Andover's stories were the most interesting for me, they showed so much of the world and the story, I have the same feeling of when I finished Seven Forges, it's been a few days but the story is still racing through my mind and when I think about one scene, many follow-ups pop up. Few authors achieve to get me so addicted to their works. And well the ending. yes I am going to say it again WOW. There will be war and it wont be pretty.


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