My review of The Forlorn by Dave Freer
HUMANITY’S LAST HOPE LIES IN THE BALANCE … The relentless search is on: Find the opal-like sections of a matter transmitter, scattered across a continent. Without them the only human colony-planet dies. The pieces are hidden in the vast deserts, tangled jungles, medieval cities and stark fortresses of this world. They are defended by fanatics. The fifteen sections are technological miracle-workers, more precious than fist-sized diamonds in a colony regressed to the 14th century level. Yet, the various hunters will let nothing in their way. Against humanity’s questers race the Morkth, space-traveling xenophobic alien destroyers of Earth. They are determined to destroy all these human vermin, soon. But first they want the matter-transmitter … They want it badly, and they destroy anything that tries to stop them. They have nukes and lasers to the colonists’ swords and spears. It’s no contest. All that stands between the Morkth and the destruction of the planet are three unlikely heroes: A street-child thief, a dispossessed and totally spoiled brat of a sixteen year-old princess, and a confused, amoral, Morkth-raised human. If they can gather all the transmitter sections before the Morkth do, then there is a chance of survival. But the Morkth already have several sections, and the others are lost, or guarded and hidden. It seems like a lost cause… a Forlorn Hope. But it’s all humans have.
Overall I enjoyed it, but there were a few issues that kind of jarred me out of the moment. It’s a sort of cross between young adult, SF and Fantasy consisting of a ragtag group of heroes on a quest filled with loneliness, love, betrayal, science and magic.
I found the world building intriguing, but not fully developed. There seemed to be holes in the descriptions of how the world worked, some of which would later be addressed, but which left me confounded at times until the later explanation. There were also jarring breaks in descriptions of events, usually surrounding the activation of a ‘core piece’, where it was like pieces of the story were simply missing as one scene was being described and then suddenly something else was being described. There were times I went back to reread the previous couple of paragraphs to see if I had missed something. Perhaps it was just the formatting of the edition I read, but it would have made for a much more enjoyable reading experience if there was some sort of an indication at the beginning of the passage indicating that what was now being described was something new that was pulled into the scene by the ‘magic’ use of the core pieces.
I liked the heroes. I found them likable and they seemed to grow throughout the book, though they were a little too trusting at times. I imagined Shael looking like a young Natalie Portman. S’Kith like Michael McManus’s character Kai from Lexx – but with a shaved head. I imagined Leyla looking like a long haired Eva Habermann, and Keilin like the young thief Gaston played by Matthew Broderick in Ladyhawke. I had the same image in my head for the Morkth as for the Buggers from Ender’s Game.
Not really a deep thinking type of book, but enjoyable and quick to read. There is some allusion to sex, but nothing I haven’t seen in other books aimed at young teens and tweens. Depending on the maturity level of the young reader I think it would be fine for someone in the upper grade school grades, but probably more suitable to someone in middle school looking to get lose themselves in another world for awhile.
The book was formatted well with no obvious spelling or grammatical errors. Thanks to the Baen Free Library and Free Promotional CDs for this title.