Look, just ignore the hook line for this one claiming it’s like Game of Thrones or Grishaverse. Forged in Fire and Stars is a fantastic fantasy on it’s own and should be treated as such.
While an ARC of this novel was sent to me for review by the publisher, I ended up reading the story via audiobook from my library. As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are completely my own and not influenced in any way. Thank you to Penguin Teen and Philomel Books for providing me a copy of this novel.
Forged in Fire and Stars:
Author: Andrea Robertson
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: May 5th, 2020
Synopsis: Ara has always known the legend of the Loresmith: the blacksmith who served alongside the kings and queens of Saetlund, forging legendary weapons to arm warriors and protect the kingdom. She’s been told it’s her fate to inherit the title and become the next Loresmith. But since the monarchy’s downfall in a vicious conquest years before, Ara has never truly believed she would be able to take up her duty.
But when the lost Princess Nimhea and Prince Eamon steal Ara from her quiet life with a mission to retake the throne and return Ara to her place as the Loresmith—Ara’s whole world turns upside down.
Suddenly, Ara must leave her small mountain village and embark on a dangerous adventure where she will uncover new truths about her family’s legacy, and even face the gods themselves. With a mysterious thief as an unexpected companion, and dark forces following their every move, Ara must use all her skills to forge the right path forward—for herself, her kingdom, and her heart.
Fair warning: this is mostly a review, but also part rant. A rant at publishing, not the book. The book is wonderful and it’s doing just fine.
I understand why publishers use big name books in hooks and blurbs for upcoming releases. It lures you in with promises that this novel is for you because you liked this Very Popular Book™. But I wonder if they think about what happens after someone buys a book on a false premise. I can tell you what happens though: bad reviews for books that are very good, but nothing like the big name book they tried to make you think it was like.
It’s about expectations. I once read a book that was promised to be like Labyrinth. Except it wasn’t at all and my expectations, that were specifically influenced by that comparison, led me to strongly dislike the book. Not because it was a bad story. But because I kept waiting for anything remotely like Jareth the Goblin King in his tight tight pants to show up. And I never got it. And while I read this book back before I wrote book reviews, if I had been writing them at the time, it would have been a 3 page essay on how mad I was there were no tight pants. I can’t speak for everyone, but reviews do influence my book buying habits and bad reviews certainly don’t make me want to buy a book.
So what does this all have to do with Forged in Fire and Stars? Well, the hooks for this story liken it to the Grishaverse, An Ember in the Ashes, and Game of the Thrones…except it’s not like those at all. A quick glance at some of the reviews for FiFaS show that many people were let down because they were expecting certain things. And because of these expectations, I think people aren’t giving Forged in Fire and Stars enough credit.
Forged in Fire and Stars is a fantastic start to an epic YA fantasy series that, if it must be likened to another literary work, made me think of old school YA series like the Tortall books by Tamora Pierce. While some may find the story a bit slow, those who enjoy deep world building and character driven plots will find the beginning to a new favorite series with this one.
And let’s start with the pacing first, because I know a lot of people might find issue with it. This story is definitely setting up for a bigger arc and world, but the journey we go on is not boring in the slightest. Robertson builds up the world as we go on the journey with Ara and there are many layers to everything going on. I particularly enjoyed the way gods and goddesses tied into the mysticism of the world.
The characters, especially Ara, are all well built and believable. Ara and the lost royals are in their midteens and they are realistically not perfect and sometimes very confused with their role in the world. Some reviews I saw claimed this book “read young” and um, it’s a “YOUNG adult” book. However, don’t think that the book might not be for you. While some of the romantic side plot grated on my bitter old lady nerves, I fully enjoyed this story of teens journeying to claim their heritage. Oh, and did I mention that the main character is a female with bad ass black smith skills?
Forged in Fire and Stars is different from a lot of young adult novels that are on the market these days. It feels more subtle, but no less engaging. I think likening it to other big name books does a disservice to what is a wonderful story on it’s own, but I hope that this book will find it’s readers. I, for one, am very excited for the next book in the series.