Gabe Delling is a swindler, a cheat, a petty criminal or as he calls himself, a professional con artist. He goes through his different personas the same ways most of us geeks go through Batman t-shirts, and his transformations are uncanny! Gabe’s greatest weapons are his quick wit, charm and intelligence, and he uses them to…fairly acceptable ends. Swindler he might be but Gabe is far from amoral; as a result, he’s not exactly swimming in money. Quite the contrary, in fact: at the book’s opening, our poor protagonist is struggling to keep his head over the water. Then, a job appears and it might be his one shot at paying the mounting bills. Of course, it goes terribly, apocalyptically wrong!
Unfortunately for Gabe, he gets involved in a world that is so much more complex than anything he’s prepared for. A world of gods and monsters, all of whom fall under the umbrella term “Umbra”. And quite possibly the worst of them all is stuck inside Gabe’s head. I’m sure you see all the potential for this going wrong already…This is the story of Gabe trying his damnedest to survive with a being of unfathomable power intent on breaking the mortal whose body he resides in. Makes Gabe’s light, upbeat personality even more impressive, doesn’t it?
The side characters are a treat. Heather is a succubus tied to Gabe through a crazy twist of fate I won’t spoil but the relationship between the two is so incredibly rewarding throughout the novel. She’s clever, unscrupulous and ridiculously sexy – which is on par for the species – but she’s also possessed by a heart that isn’t wholly black. Big praise for her kind, I reckon. (To all our succubus readers, I apologize; I mean no offence!) In truth, Heather’s a delightfully complex character, whose development is a thing of great beauty. She’s also described in a unique way, with an emphasis placed on her scent. There’s also a secondary villain, Gwendyl, married to, and working towards the freedom of her husband, the bloke inside Gabe’s head. She’s not too pleased about the present circumstances, as you might imagine.
Pacing, action, worldbuilding – all these are done very well indeed. The world is, like in most urban fantasy, like our own on the surface. All the differences lie just underneath. Some familiar concepts, mainstays to the urban fantasy genre, as well as some interesting new ones, none of which I thought were bad or trite.
Josh Erikson’s audiobook narration is brilliant! I didn’t expect he’d do as great a job as he did, but all his voices are on point, including the very melodramatic (but fittingly so) god of evil, Acamana. Every character has a unique voice, and if Josh weren’t such a good author, I’d be half-inclined to press him into the audiobook narration business! But alas, urban fantasy would miss one of its finest new voices if I did that, and we can’t very well have that, can we?!
My score for Hero Forged is a 4.5 out of 5, which I round up to 5 on whatever starred site demands it! I would also like to decry the fact that Hero Forged didn’t reach the final stage of this year’s SPFBO. To my mind, it is most certainly deserving of being amongst these ten finalists.
You should read Hero Forged if:
- You enjoy snarky, light, likeable main characters;
- you’re a sucker for character development;
- you’re an urban fantasy fan OR curious about the genre;
- you’re a lighter fantasy fan in general – yep, there’s plenty to appreciate even if urban isn’t your cup of tea, per se;
- you’ve got an evil god in your head, and are trying to get some help with that;
- you are an evil god, and you’re looking for a how-to and/or how-not-to guide on dealing with and possessing mortals;
- and more! Prob’ly.
I’m also introducing a new section to my reviews: The Song! The Song for this book is Short Skirt / Long Jacket by Cake, possibly because it seems like the kind of song you’d sing to a modern-day succubus; possible, too, that it’s been stuck in my head for ages and I need to inflict that upon you, dear reader!