Mithrid is a defiant teenager, living an unremarkable life in a small coastal village. Raised by her abusive alcoholic father, she teeters on the cusp of adulthood. But everything will change when she and her childhood friends discover a shipwreck touched by deadly magic.
Farden is the titular Forever King, a tough, seasoned warrior and mage. He leads a decades long rebellion against a brutal empire that seeks to outlaw magic itself. Haunted by the burdens of leadership, desperate to free the land of Emaneska from tyranny, he seeks a weapon that will turn the tide of this war.
The characters populating this novel were solid but not, I felt, its strong suit. Mithrid is certainly the most fleshed out and dynamic character, with just enough stubbornness to help her stumble into peril, but not so much as to elicit eyerolls. She is fierce and determined, she has regrets and worries. She is slow to trust. I enjoyed her journey and the evolution of her skills and unique magic. Farden was also fairly well established, but he felt a little flatter to me. He is extremely powerful and in a position of total authority so its hard to see much of a character arc for him. This is ok. I get the sense that he is closer to a James Bond type by this point in the story. The Forever King is the first book in this series but there were a number of books with him as main character in the previous series. He fulfilled his role in my opinion though he didn’t stand out. It was Malvus that I felt was a little lacking. The novel’s antagonist was just a bad guy. He was evil without clear motivations. Like he would kill a servant for not cutting the crust off of his sandwich. It made him feel pretty one-dimensional and detracted from my enjoyment of the story as a whole.
The plot of the Forever King is relatively straight forward. It’s a version of your classical fantasy setup: rural teen has life upended, discovers they possess unique power, uses the power to fight evil in the land. The particulars were well done though. I kept turning pages at a good clip, compelled to discover what happened next. Despite this novel’s chonky heft at well over 600 pages, the pacing was very strong. I never felt bogged down. This story is crammed full of action scenes. If you love fantasy action, you need to read this book. Honestly, I don’t usually go for lots of long fight sequences, but the author did a good job keeping them interesting.
I’m a little split on the prose. For the most part I think they were quite good. The story had a distinct voice, a light touch of humor, and did a good job of painting a vivid picture. However, there were a few instances of odd or esoteric word choices, a few stilted sentences that were confusing, and a few similes that felt a bit off.
The Forever King shines in its worldbuilding. I, for one, really enjoy a story with lots of old school fantasy tropes like this. Emaneska feels like a world with depth to it. I’ll say there were a few small instances where I felt like I might be missing something from the previous series, but these were very minor and in all I think Galley handled this remarkably well. I never felt like I was getting a big info dump of all the stuff I missed in the last books, but I never felt lost either. The Written, Emaneska’s top tier mages, were a pretty cool element, as were the dragons and gods and other supernatural creatures. I really enjoyed how much magic suffused this story. A lot of fantasy has a pretty meager dash of magic, which I always find a little disappointing. Not so in this case. Emaneska’s magic weaves through every strand of plot, and character, and worldbuilding.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It nailed a few of my favorite tropes and provided an entertaining, action-packed narrative. The pacing and worldbuilding were both excellent, while characterization and plot were solid if not amazing. It has big battles, potent magic, and mysterious supernatural forces. Fans of classic epic fantasy should definitely try the Forever King.
SPFBO Score: 7.5