How is it that Miles Cameron keeps impressing me more with each book? The Traitor Son Cycle is one of my favorite fantasy series of all time. After Dark Forge, I already think Cameron may surpass it with his Masters & Mages trilogy.
If it wasn’t entirely clear after Cold Iron that Cameron is writing an Epic Fantasy with a capital-E and capital-F, it certainly isn’t now. This is also definitely Flintlock Fantasy—early modern guns play a much more significant role in Dark Forge than they did in Cold Iron. Cameron also continues to play with Chosen One tropes. Aranthur isn’t the Chosen One, or at least he doesn’t appear to be. He has immense capabilities, or at least potential capabilities, but his talents are not singular. He is mostly in the right place at the right time (or the wrong place at the wrong time, depending on how you look at it).
Cold Iron closes with Aranthur leaving the City with the army. Dark Forge opens with a huge battle. Cameron is a master at this stuff, and it absolutely shows. After the urban focus in Cold Iron, Dark Forge is a war book. Not only does it open with a massive pitched battle, when was the last time you read a book that devoted chapters to the post-battle pursuit? Later we get some urban warfare and siege warfare. All fought with early guns and cannons and an immense amount of magic.
After a set-up heavy book 1, Dark Forge is action-heavy in the best possible way. But Cameron doesn’t skimp on the worldbuilding. In fact, now that the world has basically been laid out, we start to get into the real meat of the worldbuilding. We learn more about the Pure, one of the more inventive, terrifying, and interesting enemies in recent fantasy. We find out much more about Aranthur’s not-so-ordinary sword, however ordinary the circumstances of its purchase were. The prologue also sets up a magical cataclysm that will have huge ramifications.
Cameron’s work is tremendously entertaining, but it has plenty of gravitas as well. Aranthur’s character arc remains a highlight. Really all of the characters are a joy. Cameron excels at writing minor characters who come off as very human and real. Cameron also deftly interweaves philosophy, especially on war. The two are not unrelated: Aranthur is pushed into a constant crisis of morality by his role in the war.
Bright Steel, the final book in the trilogy, is scheduled for release on December 10, 2019.
5 of 5 Stars.