In Thunder Forged: The Iron Kingdoms Chronicles (The Fall of Llael Book i) is based on two games: Warmachine, a military steampunk fantasy game and Iron Kingdoms, a role-playing game. The author assumes the reader is familiar with these games, so if you have not played either or both of them you will be confused at first. All of the explanation of what the Iron Kingdoms are and who is fighting who and why is saved for the “After Report” at the very end of the book. It would have been very helpful if that material had been at the beginning, or even scattered throughout the narrative. This reviewer found herself quite lost when the book immediately plunged into action with no explanation whatsoever.
Nevertheless, the book is interesting. Military steampunk is a relatively new genre with a lot of potential and this book is full of steam-powered fighting machines, clever espionage, valiant soldiers and knights,magic and alchemy.
The plot involves a stolen alchemical formula that has the potential to be the most deadly weapon yet in the conflict between the Cygnarans and the Khadorans. It was stolen from the Cygnarans by a traitorous alchemist and it is up to a small but intrepid band of Cygnaran soldiers, a Storm Knight and her cohorts, a talented gunmage and a clever spy to get it back before it is too late. There is much fighting, bloodshed, and loss along the way.
The emphasis here is on the conflict and the espionage, the weaponry and those gigantic steam-powered machines, and not on character development or interrelationships between people. The reader does feel for the characters at times but you don’t really feel that you get to know them, which may not be too bad since many don’t last that long. Perhaps the next books in the series will develop the characters more.
Certainly this book will probably be most popular with fans of the games it is based upon, but it is worth a read for anyone interested in the steampunk genre or military fantasy. Marmell is a skillful writer and keeps things moving briskly. I would suggest for readers not familiar with the games that you read the sections on the Iron Kingdoms in the “After Report” at the end first.