When she heads out on her first trip as the youngest ever Logkeeper, Victoria expects to be tested. But instead of the questioning and doubtfulness she anticipated, she is taken captive and eventually sold into slavery to a nobleman who intends to break her will to his own.
The character of Victoria is the core of the novel and she goes through quite the evolution before the finale. Beginning as a precocious teenager, her relatively sheltered upbringing is thrown into sharp relief when she is captured, sold and comes into the possession of Lornk Korng. Rather than just putting her to work for him or something similar, his approach is much more insidious.
This is what I believe is the most disturbing aspects of the book, and also the best handled. Korng uses Victoria’s physical reactions to him in an attempt to make her both desire him and become dependant on him. This experience forms a combination of Stockholm Syndrome and PTSD which continues to haunt her long after her escape. It also adds impetus to her future career as a soldier but not without causing some problems. The degree to which this mixture of feelings is explored without falling into triteness is exemplary.
Another of the elements that I particularly enjoyed is the history of this world. While the majority of the novel stays within traditional fantasy outlines, there is also some sci-fi trappings underlying them. Rather than be native inhabitants, the human civilizations are descended from the crew of a starship and some, like Victoria’s people, have been waiting for the day they can rejoin their people, while others treat it as nothing more than legend. There is some evidence of the remnants of that technology, such as machines that allow instantaneous transport from one location to another and an intelligent insectoid species that makes an appearance in the latter third of the novel, but for the most part, most of this remains in the background of the world.
If I had one reservation about A Wizard’s Forge, it was that the ending seemed a bit abrupt to me. But, since this is the first book, that may be less of an issue once I can get my hands on the second. In any case, that’s not enough to stop me recommending it wholeheartedly.