Review: Ice Forged by Gail Z. Martin

Ice Forged by Gail Z. Martin | Orbit, 2013

I snagged Ice Forged by Gail Z. Martin when it was a Kindle daily deal and decided it would a be good time to try out Amazon’s Whispersync Voice. Ice Forged is a strange mash-up of genres that peaked my interest when I saw Gail Martin’s guest post about the novel over at Fantasy Book Critic. In her article Martin discusses the genesis of her novel and the notion that Ice Forged takes the premise of an apocalyptic novel and transposes it from its modern setting to a medieval fantasy world. In Ice Forged the loss of power and utilities (as you would see in a “modern” postapocalyptic novel) is replaced by the disruption of magic which in the world of Ice Forged has seeped its way into the everyday lives of most people.

The magic is one of the more interesting aspects of Martin’s novel. While she does include the flashy magic fantasy readers are familiar with she focuses very much on small magics. Not everyone in the world of Ice Forged has what it takes to be a mage but many (as is the case with many of the novel’s protagonists) can utilize magic in small, often practical, ways. This could be anything from providing a slight edge in combat, social lubrication, or even aiding in brewing and distilling. By tying magic intrinsically to the daily lives of her characters Martin can better explore how its disruption effects the possibility of recovery after catastrophe.

Ice Forged presents this premise wrapped in the trappings of traditional fantasy. The novel’s hero, Blaine MacFadden, starts the novel being exiled for murder to a land of ice and snow eventually ending up in the penal colony of Edgeland. At the same time the novel follows Bevin Connor back on the mainland. Bevin is a young man who serves the aging and eccentric Lord Garnoc and is the primary perspective through which the reader witness the unfolding tragedy and oncoming magical maelstrom. Martin fleshes her world out a bit further by introducing vampires into the mix. Ancient and aristocratic the vampires in the novel are primarily allies to our protagonists whose age means they are able to serve as vast reservoirs of knowledge in the wake of the magical catastrophe brewing.

Admittedly I felt that the novel leaned a bit too heavily on the traditional fantasy tropes. Furthermore the novel takes quite a bit of time to get to the magical catastrophe hinted at in the summary. Martin does weave bits of conspiracy and rumor into the proceedings offering up hints that there is something bigger going on than what the protagonists can see. Most postapocalyptic novels are in many ways an exercise in the sociological imagination; they fictionalize the notion of making the familiar strange and examining how society reacts. In the case of postapocalyptic novels grounded in the “real” world there is already a large degree of familiarity with most readers which makes for a little bit less work on the author’s part. This isn’t the case in Ice Forged as Martin must familiarize readers with the world in order for us to understand how the loss of magic impacts society and in turn the novel’s protagonists. This is one hell of a task. Martin does a credible job particularly in the crafting Blaine’s adopted family structure in Edgeland and Bevin’s reactions to events in the novel. The impact isn’t quite as strong as a more conventionally set postapocalyptic novel but still makes for an engaging and entertaining read.

As I stated earlier Ice Forged represented my first attempt at using Amazon’s Whispersync for Audio. The way the program works is you purchase the Kindle book and then you can purchase the Audible audiobook version at a discounted price. As you read (or listen) the digital files sync to the furthest location you’ve read or listened to. When it works its a pretty brilliant service that works seamlessly. It was pretty awesome to put my book away in the morning, climb in the car for work and pick up listening right where a I left off reading. The “when it works” caveat is a small one, my titles didn’t sync properly when I first purchased them, and Amazon/Audible support resolved the issue quickly. Narrator Tim Gerard Reynolds is fairly straightforward reader and I can’t find anything to really complain about with his performance. While Reynolds doesn’t elevate the text as some of the more well known audiobook narrators do I’ve heard worse and I’ve heard better.

 
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