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In Thunder Forged

Posted by Alan On Tuesday, August 13, 2013

IN THUNDER FORGED is the first novel set in the Warmachine world, which is known for tabletop war games, and several RPG releases. Created by Privateer Press, and published by Pyr SF&F, the novel takes place in a war-torn, steam-powered fantasy world, and IN THUNDER FORGED is a strange breed of Military Thriller, Espionage and Heroic Fantasy. I've been playing the tabletop game for several years now, and I'm (what I consider) pretty familiar with the world and setting. A series of tie in novels was not something I approached without trepidation. I've never read an Ari Marmell book before, so I wasn't sure what to expect.

First thing I noticed was the size of the book. At 320 pages, it's not promising a literary extravaganza that will take hours of devouring (I was able to finish it in about 3 hours, without a lot of effort). But any concerns I was harboring about content were swiftly dispelled by the cover art. Several of the main characters in the cast show on the cover, and while it wasn't a terribly action packed cover, I was immediately intrigued (girls with electro-spear-thingys in steam armor tend to catch my attention).

The basic premise of the plot revolves around the simple conceit of a nation attempting to secure a weapon they were at risk of losing to an invading rival nation. So a team of commandos, a spy and some others go to retrieve the thing. The plot is simple but well-crafted, with a few unexpected twists and turns that kept me wondering how Marmell would resolve some of the plots he was spinning in such a short page count. The ensemble cast was too large for my tastes for such a short novel. Only a few of the characters got developed to the point where I felt invested in their fates.

But it didn't take me long to get into the series. The opening sequence grabbed me by my (non-existent) lapels, and pulled me into the book. When I started reading the novel, I was in the middle of moving. All the packing and unpacking I was doing had to take a 3 hour hold, because there was no way I was getting out of my chair before I finished reading. The action was paced well, the characters were consistent (a bit two-dimensional, but there was a fairly large cast), and the setting was delivered well with appropriate amounts of explanation for the new initiates to the world. The military action was concise, believable, and to my limited experience, fairly accurate to what I would have imagined in such situations. It blended nicely into the spy-thriller sub-plot and delivered several moments that I flat-out cheered at.

The dialogue was a bit out of place in a few points (some modern nomenclature made it's way in that jarred me), but wheeeew, when some of the characters showed up that had been established in the tabletop, I was ecstatic to see that Marmell had captured them in a very similar way that my imagination had. It was a great action-packed spy thriller ride up to the end.

But the ending left me feeling...unsatisfied. Not with with the immediate resolution, which made sense. Not with any part of the protagonists' decisions, which made sense. But there was a sense of deus ex machina keeping the disparate main characters intertwined in spite of the logical consistency of the resolution. Some of the decisions the antagonists made broke their established behaviors, and flat out contradicted what had been said earlier. Separately, breaking the mold and showing characters behaving outside of expectations is bad, but during the resolution of the story? It invalidated some of the driving premises behind the plot.

I'd still reread it, and recommend it. If you like steampunk, military/espionage thrillers, or interesting new fantasy worlds, then you'd better read it. If you like quick, fun, well-delivered reads, you can't go wrong on IN THUNDER FORGED.

Recommended Age: 14+ for military violence.
Language: Nothing you wouldn't hear at 7 PM on basic televisions.
Violence: Yes. A lot of military conflict takes place, but most of it isn't described in great detail until near the end, and even at the end, the details aren't stated too deliberately.
Sex: None.

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