Book review

The Forging of the Sword by Mark Robson (2000)

Actually, a lot more than a single sword is forged in this enormously enjoyable battle of good against evil. Friendships are forged too. They are forged on the Drill Square and the Weapons Training Area during five months of hard training which transforms a bunch of raw recruits into a successful fighting unit.

But to start with there is just Calvyn. In the few quiet moments before this story begins we meet a sensible young teenager from a farming village, out for a day's fishing. Returning home through the darkening drizzle Calvyn is able to help an amiable stranger whose cart is caught in the muddy track. Is this meeting pure chance, or did Perdimmon the Magician feel the potential of the young Calvyn? I don't know, but it was a fortunate meeting because a terrible scene meets their eyes as they round the final bend in the lane to Calvyn's village.

The village has been attacked and burned. Since Calvyn no longer has any family left nor reason to stay in the village, he takes to the road with Perdimmon. For two years, as he recovers from his grief, Calvyn and Perdimmon travel the countryside trading at the local markets, and Calvyn receives some basic training from Perdimmon in the magic arts. However, Perdimmon is more than a mere hawker of magical cures for the common cold. He is the Warden of a source of great power. Challenged by his enemy, Selkor, in a busy market place one day, Perdimmon escapes on horseback. It's a difficult moment, but Perdimmon and Calvyn's paths must part while Perdimmon continues his battle with Selkor alone.

It's a dangerous world out there for a lone teenager who must find his own way. He decides to enlist in the army of Baron Keevan ...

This story is an unusual mixture of fantasy where a magic talisman can alter the course of a battle, and reality as experienced under the razor-sharp surveillance of the Training Sergeant. The transformation of Squad Two from a disparate group of opposing characters into a strong and independent unit is fascinating to watch and a highly satisfying section of the story. And as you will see if you read this book, there is plenty of work for Squad Two at the end of their training:

There were several gasps from squad members at the word 'war'. Calvyn was not among them. It was not by chance that Derra had been looking straight at Jenna and himself as she had pronounced their objective, and Calvyn's mind immediately flashed back to the old seeress in the market place.
'The Holy War,' he breathed to himself.

If you like to take your fantasy seriously I think you will thoroughly enjoy this book. Highly recommended.

What can I read next?

If you enjoyed this book, you are in luck because it is the first one of a series by Mark Robson:

This series owes a lot to J R R Tolkien. If you enjoy The Forging of the Sword and you are not already familiar with Tolkien's books, I think you will get a lot of pleasure from these titles:

Similarly, I think you might really enjoy this sequence of four books by Ursula Le Guin:

Or possibly you might be interested in the Dalemark Quartet by Diana Wynne Jones:

You might also enjoy the new 'syence fyctione' fantasy by Robin Jarvis:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

The Forging of the Sword features in these lists: