David Forbes a writer with yet another Epic Fantasy saga, right? The Amber Wizard sounds typical enough for an opening volume. The book opens with a fairly typical prologue detailing the fall of the previous ruling class of the world. Even the prince-with-hidden-powers is a familiar formula on the creaking shelf of Epic Fantasy. So why should you consider reading David Forbesís debut novel? Well, there are a number of reasons, to be quite honest. One of those reasons is the protagonist, Gerin Atreyano, the titular Amber Wizard. As the story opens, Gerin is the Crown Prince of Khedesh, eldest child of King Abran Atreyano. Forbes sets up a good family dynamic between Gerin, his siblings, and their father. Gerin has a desire to rise beyond the princely title he holds, he has ambitions of being a ruler who makes a difference, like his father and grandfather, who are both renowned - he does not want to be a lame-duck king. Gerin comes across, through his actions and words, as a very genuine, believable protagonist. Since the thrust of the narrative revolves around Gerin, Forbes is off to a good start.
In Forbesís world, wizards often test young people with the awaenjir, a talismanic jewel used to awaken the powers of the wizard. If it doesnít light up, then the person is not a wizard. However, when a wizard is awakened, their level of power is foretold by the color in which the jewel alights. When Gerin tests out, he is shown to be an Amber Wizard, the most powerful type of wizard in Forbesís world of Osseria. Gerin isnít typical of the boy with hidden power, while he does debate what to do about his newfound power for a bit, Gerin does not whine or complain about it, he embraces his power and moves forward to learn more about it. This is where Forbes throws some interesting things into the mix. One of these ingredients is that Gerinís sister, Reshel, also tests out as a wizard. While she is not as powerful as Gerin, she has studied much of the history of wizards and provides a good supporting character. Another complication ensues when Gerin feels his father is jealous of the power he wields. The family dynamic comes in play again, adding further depth to the internal struggles Gerin must face throughout the story.
Before he can even begin his formal training as a wizard at Hethnost, the Fortress-city and home of most of the remaining wizards in Osseria, people from Neddari, the neighboring warrior-clan, attack Gerin. During the attack, a spell is cast upon Gerin, compelling him to unleash the spirit of the Storm King, the powerful warrior-wizard whom the Khedeshians defeated hundreds of years earlier. Gerin soon finds himself driven to find the artifact, which will release the Storm King. Despite his inner conflict and struggles, Gerin cannot stop himself and releases Asankaru, the Storm King. From this point on, Gerin, the wizards, and those around him try to solve and put a stop to the mystery behind the Storm King. That is, the heroes rally to stop the barely-seen Dark Lord.
Forbes brings all these familiar elements into an impressively developed fictional world, which is one of the aspects that sets his work apart from some of his contemporaries. The land, while populated by nobles, kings and princes, doesnít exactly have the same medieval flavor as all too many novels in this genre. On his Web site, Forbes lists Dune as a pivotal work in his life, and the desert feel evoked in the novel, combined with some of the politics do give The Amber Wizard a similar feel, overall. There is a deep history in the Osserian Saga, from the opening of the prologue to the richness of his wizards, Forbes put a lot of work and care into creating this world.
For all this praise, like many books and many debut novels, it isnít without flaws. At times the history of the world is laid out as an information dump, recited almost as a history lecture from the characters. I also felt the pace was a bit slow in the middle, but this was compensated for in the opening and closing of the novel, both of which moved along quite nicely. There was a great amount of tension leading up to the ending of the novel, but I felt some of what occurred during the conclusion was a bit too telegraphed. Even though the cover states this book is the first part of a series, and reads like an opening novel which sets up a greater saga, it ends with closure and stands well on its own, without any cliffhangers.
All that having been said, I think David Forbes has created a rich world that would do well under further exploration. Throughout the novel, Forbes tears down a number of the clichťs of the genre and reveals hidden truths behind what seem to be typical elements of an Epic Fantasy story. He shows promise and with some ironing of the above-mentioned wrinkles, can improve an already enjoyable saga and move beyond introducing readers to his richly detailed world.
© 2006 Rob H. Bedford