Konowa Swift Dragon is doubly cursed. Born with the tip of his ear turned black, his people believe he has been touched by the evil Shadow Monarch. Trying to prove his worth, he has risen in the ranks to commander of the Iron Elves, the strongest and most loyal soldiers in Calahr. But when he discovers that the Viceroy has been secretly serving the Shadow Monarch, Konowa assassinates him, causing the Iron Elves to be disbanded and himself to be banished to the forest.
Expecting to live out his days in the forest he despises, Konowa is astonished when Visyna, the daughter of an
elfkynan governor - and a powerful witch - seeks him out and delivers shocking news: he has been recalled to his post as officer in the Imperial Army. Dark forces are once again moving across Calahr. Creatures once thought extinct have returned, and the Eastern Star is rumored to have returned to the world. The Star is hunted by many factions, both good and evil, for the magic it promises, and the most shocking news of all is still to come: the Iron Elves are to be reformed, but under vastly different circumstances than before.
Konowa feels the call of the Elves, and despite his aversion to returning to the Army, his promise to keep them safe forces his hand. With Visyna at his side, he begins the arduous journey to find the Eastern Star. But Konowa is not immune to the forces of evil - the Shadow Monarch calls to him, and the closer he gets to the Star, the stronger her hold becomes. With the fate of the Elves and possibly the Empire at risk, Konowa must use his special connection to the Monarch to try and save the Star from destruction. But how close can he come to darkness before it overtakes him completely?
A Darkness Forged in Fire is the first book of a projected trilogy and has the potential for wide crossover appeal. Evans gives readers elves, witches, ghosts and magical creatures, which will appeal to those who enjoy epic fantasy. He also includes enough military lingo, warfare and cannon shots to appeal to readers who enjoy military fiction. The violence is surprisingly light, and with no graphic language or sexual situations, I would expect it to be appropriate for a wide range of readers.
However, seasoned fantasy readers may find it a little simplistic for their taste. The plot is fairly simple, and while the main characters are well-drawn, some of the more minor characters are not given much time to develop. Additionally, in a genre known for its world-building, much of the background and setting of the novel is never really explained. Evans introduces a whole score of interesting characters, legends and places but never gives the reader much insight into the full history of his world.
All in all, though, I did enjoy the novel. Evans has a lovely, descriptive writing style and injects humor throughout a story that could quickly become rather bleak. His main characters, Konowa and Visyna, are both strong and sympathetic, and the complex relationship between the two is certainly fascinating. Evans leaves his readers wanting to know more about his world, and I look forward to discovering where he takes us next.