Book Review

A.M. Justice’s A WIZARD’S FORGE (THE WOERN SAGA, #1)

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Title: A Wizard’s Forge (The Woern Saga, #1)
Author: A. M. Justice
Format: eBook, courtesy of NetGalley and Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Date Available: September 19, 2016
Dates Read: September 2-16, 2016
Rating: 3 ½ to 4 stars

“I shall call you Kara,” he whispered.
A new tide of tears rising, she had swallowed and shook her head. “My name is Victoria.”
“Such a treasure you are,” Lornk had exclaimed. He knelt beside the bed, took her hands, kissed her on the forehead. “I’m the luckiest man in the world, Kara.” So he took her name and gave her a new one.
Thereafter, he told her each night how her skin shone like Elesendar, every morning how her hair shimmered like the dawn, every afternoon how her eyes glowed like dewed grass. What the world thought of her ceased to matter because he became her world. So he took her shame and gave her beauty.

 Initial Thoughts.

One of the first things that drew me to this book was the cover. Let me start off by saying that it is beautiful and definitely eye-catching (much more than the original). After reading the description, I was drawn in by the fact that it was not a young adult story; although the main character is fifteen in the beginning of the book, the timeline does progress several years, meaning Vic in her early twenties for a majority of the plot.

I was also intrigued about how the book was conceptualized into four major sections of narrative: Ore, Smelt, Forge, and Temper. I really liked the symbolism of what each section represented in terms of Victoria’s development, or forgery, from the Logkeeper of the Oreseekers she started out as into the Blade – and Wizard – that she became.

I have separated my review into four sections, one for each section represented in the book; there will be a few spoilers, so be warned. Read at your own discretion.

 Part 1. Ore

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At fifteen, Victoria (Vic) is the youngest Logkeeper in her town’s (Ourtown’s) history, descended from the Oreseekers who crash-landed on their planet from Earth. On her first journey as Logkeeper, she is captured and sold as a mistress to the master of Lordhome, Lornk Karng, in the city of Traine. By his hand, she endures months of psychological-torture-bordering-on-rape. Lornk told her, “I want you to crave me…” He even “took her name and gave her a new one,” preferring to call her Kara. Even though she was told he treasured her, and that he wanted her to treasure him, she couldn’t help but feel like “[a] clockwork doll made of silver, a fragile thing that would tarnish if left out in the air.”

In this respect, Lornk raped her: he raped her of her name, of her identity, of her freedom, and of all the things that made her Victoria of Ourtown. Lornk was extracting Kara from the essence of her being, making her into something he could bend to his will, all while manipulating her into thinking she wanted to be his.

But throughout this, even though it was a struggle, her mind remained her own.

Head pounding, she stumbled toward the Device. Lornk yelled for her to stop. He wouldn’t kill her; he’d lock her up and strip her bare again, tinkering with her will until once again the clockwork doll breathed and blinked for him alone. The black knob jutting from the floor gleamed, inviting her to oblivion… “Not yours,” she mumbled…

Part 2. Smelt

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Thinking she was going to her death, Vic was surprised to find herself in Narath, the capital of Latha, in the royal palace. Although initially mistrusted and thought to be a spy because of where she came from, she was eventually accepted into the household as a royal ward. She befriends Bethniel (Beth), the daughter of the Ruler, as well as her brother, Ashel.

Though strong, Vic is still unsure of her place in the household and is simultaneously trying to compartmentalize her time as Kara. Initially she wanted to be in the Loremasters in the Minstrels Guild, which was similar to a Logkeeper, only to come to find that everything that she was so sure of – the Logs, the history of the Orekeepers, the ship Elesendar that populated Knownearth – was not held to be common knowledge. Dismayed, she was urged to take the coming-of-age journey known as the Fembrosh in the Kiareinoll forest, which is a fancy way of saying Vic ate some hallucinogenic cake and tromped around in the forest until she had vivid dreams where her subconscious told her to become a warrior.

Warm, green air wraps around trees stretching for a sky bluer than Lornk’s eyes. Tall shadows glide through showers of light and shade, pursued by warriors. They scramble over twisted roots, jabbing pikes into the shadows, then turn on each other. Screams of pain, shouts of glory echo, while the weeping rage of a red-haired woman sings in woeful counterpoint.

So, she did what any normal girl would do: she enlisted in the army. Although Vic, as a royal ward, had the right to join the officer’s camp and receive commission, she decided to enlist as a common foot soldier. The Lathans were at war with the Relmans, led by her previous captor Lornk Korng. Driven by thoughts of revenge, Vic quickly climbed the ranks. She became known as the Blade, the leader of a small reconnaissance group called the Dagger.

The harder she worked, the more she was able to separate Vic from Kara.

However, her past still haunted her.

On the night when she and her company were to be awarded medals for their services, she received a proposal. From Ashel. However, fearing the control that Lornk still held over her, she refused, asking for more time. Then Ashel, who Vic described as “beautiful and kind and perfect,” decided that it wasn’t good enough. “Vic didn’t want him; she wanted Lornk Korng, the enemy who had surely ordered the death of the king she’d failed to save from an assassin’s blade. Those thoughts were unjust, but he couldn’t stop thinking them…” Instead of sympathizing and trying to understand what Vic was going through, he came to the conclusion that he was the victim in the situation, not Vic. I get he was angry after what happened, but the fact that he said he was there for her to help her forget her past, he did not do a very good job of putting his words into action. Meanwhile, it made Vic question herself, made her ask herself if she really deserved a man like Ashel in order to help release her from the thrall of Lornk’s invisible grasp.

Part 3. Forge

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Ashel, stung by Vic’s rejection, decided to throw away the cushy life of a minstrel to instead sign up into the army, as was his birthright. Since Vic was still on leave for another month, he headed up the Dagger as a temporary duty. However, while on assignment, he and Geram, Vic’s second, were captured by Lornk Kerng’s men, and the rest of their men were killed.

Naturally, Vic decided to go after him. I think this was the most boring section of the story, to be honest. There were simultaneously too many yet not enough details, meaning more important details were skimmed over while less important details were given greater credence. I was expecting more passion from Vic, or maybe just something more in general. The narration alternated perspectives between Ashel and Geram, who were in Lornk’s castle, and Vic and her rescue party.

After journeying for months, Vic and Beth were kidnapped by the Kragnashians into their city of Direiellene. was given the opportunity (forced) to drink of the Waters of the Dead, a pool that would either endow the drinker with magical powers or would leave the drinker dead or insane. In order to escape their city, Vic had to drink.

“You are the One,” the Center said, ignoring Bethniel. “From century to century since the death of magic, we have allowed humans to take the waters because magic grows from belief as a tree grows from soil. Belief washes away unless it is replenished. We have allowed the humans to come because we have waited for you to come. You are the One who will destroy the Oppressor.”

However, Vic once again found herself being used, even if construed as for her own potential benefit.

Curious to see this face at the pool, she was enraged that once again someone wanted her as a tool. Logkeeper. Mistress. Blade. How much of choice and how much of circumstance put her here?

Part 4. Temper

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The core of Vic’s being was altered after she drank of the Waters of the Dead. She became stronger. She became more driven and determined. She became more confident that she had the power and ability to break free from Lornk Korng’s grasp, once and for all.

It was only a matter of time until Vic became a Wizard, since the word “Wizard” was in the title of the book. However, I was slightly disappointed. Here we were, close to the end of the book, and the Kragnashians showed up and:

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I really like the fact that Vic was able to come into her own before she was handed her powers. She became strong in her own right before becoming a Wizard. I thought that was pretty powerful.

However, her powers were so anti-climactic. She was essentially an air-bender of sorts: she had the ability to affect the air around her in order to allow her to fly. She also learned her powers rather quickly, and with no guidance from those around her (since she was the only Wizard). I know she had a habit of learning quickly, but it seemed too quick to be thought of as entirely realistic.

With the combined strength of her new-found powers and the members of her company, they continued, more determined than ever.

As she neared the land, the fire in her chest mellowed and deepened, became the black heat of Lornk’s touch, pressing, releasing, controlling her breath, controlling her. Sinking on weak knees beside the barrels, she fought the white spots blooming and shredding behind her eyelids. What are you? I’m a Logkeeper. I’m the Blade. I’m a Wizard. …Heat bubbling, she staggered up, dizzy, fighting Kara’s craving, embracing Victoria’s power.

I think the scariest part of this whole book was the conviction Lornk held that he owned Victoria Kara, not even having the decency to call her by her own name as a further means to control her. Even after her escape, even after years of her fighting against his army, he believed that she was still his. Through her friends, Victoria was able to finally come to terms with who she was.

What are you? Lornk teased. …Who I am, she repeated. Mine, Lornk purred. Not his, Geram urged. Your own, Ashel promised.

It was through her friends and her own strength that she was able to finally rescue Ashel…and rescue herself.

Lornk had stripped her to her core, tried to shape her into a clockwork doll that moved and breathed at his command. But she’d broken that mold and forged herself anew: an alloy cast in blood and sand, tempered with a wizard’s power.

Final Thoughts.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Were there parts that I didn’t like? Sure. But I’m excited to continue reading the series to find out what comes next in A.M. Justice’s second book of the series, A Wizard’s Sacrifice!

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