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A Darkness Forged in Fire: Book One of the Iron Elves Mass Market Paperback – May 26, 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Iron Elves Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Konowa Swiftdragon, once commander of the Calahrian Empire’s renowned Iron Elves, is now a disgraced ex-soldier. Though elvish, Konowa is more comfortable with metal and fire than with nature and, like all the Iron Elves, was marked at birth for an ill-omened destiny by the malevolent Shadow Monarch. When a prophetic Red Star falls, awakening lost magic, Konowa is recalled to find it with a new regiment of Iron Elves—except this bunch is the dregs of the military and not even elves. Their journey is plagued by monsters and an unforeseen rebellion, but the worst is to come. The Shadow Monarch’s play for the Star is a ruse masking another intent that Konowa doesn’t see until too late. An earthy, sardonic antihero, Konowa stands uneasily at the crux of a complicated network of loyalties while flanked by a large, colorful cast. Though knotty political machinations confuse the beginning, they eventually add richness to Evans’ militaristic fantasy world, in which magic users mix with musket-wielding soldiers. A truly worrying conclusion hooks readers for book two. --Krista Hutley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A masterful debut -- if J.R.R. Tolkien and Bernard Cornwell had a literary love child, this would be it." -- Karen Traviss, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Legacy of the Force-Revelation and City of Pearl

"Fascinating...combining the best touches of fantasy and military storytelling." -- John Ringo, New York Times bestselling author of the Legacy of the Aldenata and The Council Wars series

"A thrilling epic from beginning to end, filled with wit, intrigue, and twists and turns reminiscent of Glen Cook's The Black Company. A grand new entry in the field of fantasy masters!" -- Richard A. Knaak, New York Times bestselling author in the Dragonlance, The Dragonrealm, World of Warcraft, and Diablo series

"A fantasy in which the gritty realities of war and politics are as important as the magic -- and all are handled very well." -- David Drake, national bestselling author of the Lord of the Isles and Hammer's Slammers series

"Imagine Napoleon's armies invading Middle Earth, mixing gunpowder with magic, monsters, and heroes. The Iron Elves will march across the landscape of fantasy and claim new territory. Chris Evans gives us an entertaining debut, with the promise of more great adventures to come." -- Charles Coleman Finlay, acclaimed author of The Prodigal Troll and Wild Things

"I'm always thrilled by seeing a new author press the boundaries of the conventions of fantasy. Chris Evans does just that -- taking the broad sword and sorcery archetypes and placing them squarely in a new and exciting environment." -- R. A. Salvatore

"An earthy, sardonic antihero, Konowa (Swift Dragon) stands uneasily at the crux of a complicated network of loyalties while flanked by a large, colorful cast...A truly worrying conclusion hooks readers for book two." -- Booklist

"Evans's first novel heralds the launch of an outstanding military fantasy series unlike any since Glen Cook's beloved "Black Company" series... Strong storytelling, a compelling cast of heroes and villains, and a keen knowledge of military tactics of the Napoleonic era make this a priority purchase for most libraries and a splendid read for fans of both sf and fantasy military adventure. Highly recommended." -- Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Series: Iron Elves (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; Reprint edition (May 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416570527
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416570523
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 1.3 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,470,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I received an advance reader's copy of this title, and if you enjoy fantasy and you enjoy military history, this is probably the book for you. Like many of the other reviewers here have pointed out, "A Darkness Forged in Fire" steps nicely around some of the typical fantasy cliches-- there's an elf protagonist who hates forests (he's more of a Henry V or Fortinbras of Norway type), a rather crude dwarf who likely wouldn't know what to do with the secret wisdom of his dwarven forefathers if it hit him over the head, and the technology includes muskets. The writing is fairly strong for a first-effort fantasy and Evans introduces an entire stable of supporting characters with distinct personalities, including a minor comic plotline (again: see Henry V), this involving the aforementioned dwarf.

Evans' worldbuilding has a lot of potential, but unfortunately, this book falls down on the plot. After a series of increasingly confusing viewpoint chapters (a squirrel who isn't, an Viceroy who is official...maybe, a zombie who really wants to bum a smoke), the story settles down and introduces us to the protagonist Konowa, who has been summoned from the woods he hates to rebuild the regiment he abandoned to kill the Viceroy...the old one, whom he already killed. But he needs his unit now because evil trees and a witch are involved.

And then...the book spends the rest of its time detailing Konowa's efforts to build up his old gang of Iron Elves. There's a battle, but it's really more of a distraction than an ending. Please notice how the very title here says: BOOK ONE. Evans means it; you're not going to get any sort of satisfying conclusion in this book, this is more the equivalent of an individual TV episode rather than a fully formed story. Even if you think this might be your pot of tea, I would recommend waiting until the next one or more in the series comes along before buying.
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By A Customer on July 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Calahrian Empire's Iron Elves Commander Konowa Swift Dragon felt he deserved a hero's welcome, but instead received exile as politics has its privilege. Acrimonious, angry, and cynical he wanders in self pity feeling he got the shaft. The military brass broke up his unit sending them from rebellious Hyntaland to the south and sent Konowa off by himself with no rank. His crime was killing the vicious bloody viceroy of Elfkyna, a political appointee who secretly served the evil witch the Shadow Monarch.

With a new even nastier viceroy in place having locals killed on a whim, the Shadow Monarch grows stronger threatening the empire. Desperate for sound military leadership, Konowa is asked to return to duty to lead the fabled Iron Elves. However, he finds his unit is not the same as these are simple men not elven warriors and their commander is an idiot who is heir to the empire. His mission is to retrieve the Red Star that has allegedly fallen somewhere to the east and heralds a special magic that has returned. His allies are elfkynan witch Visyna Tekoy who like her brethren hate elves and empires, and the most untrustworthy profession of them all a reporter Rallie Synjyn. Revolt is in the air fostered by the Shadow Monarch who also goes after the Red Star.

Though somewhat by the writer's 101 standardized book for high fantasy quest, Chris Evans uses contradictory traits to make his key cast members seem fresh and different; for instance the disgraced Konowa wanders forests, but unlike the stereotypical elven he loathes woodlands, etc. The story line is fun to follow even when the hero grumbles every step of the way. With the premise that my enemy's enemies are my allies but still my enemies, A DARKNESS FORGED IN FIRE is an engaging saga.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Hardcover
I've been a little bored with recent fantasy lately, so I was really excited to pick up a copy of A DARKNESS FORGED IN FIRE and see that it wasn't more of the same old same old. I bought it and read it right away--and I wasn't disappointed. I love how the characters come alive so colorfully--and the way the down-to-earth action of the individuals is set against the backdrop of a larger, magical, yet still-believable world. I liked that it uses different tropes than the ordinary epic fantasy--more Napoleonic in feel than medieval, the iron elves are an entirely different kind of elf from the Legolas variety, etc. But I also liked that the story and world had sufficient familiarity to make me feel immediately at home, while still being refreshingly different. Three cheers for this new author, and I can't wait to read the next book in the Iron Elves series!
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Format: Hardcover
A Darkness Forged in Fire is an above average fantasy debut by Chris Evans, a writer with a lively style. The novel is about Konowa, an outcast elf who must command green soldiers against an evil elf witch and her minions. Konowa is a complex, conflicted character who is torn between serving the empire, his soldiers, and his race. The novel shines when Konowa leads his regiment into battle. These graphic action scenes bring to mind Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series. I am also intrigued by the setting's racial and class politics and wish that Evans had focused more on them.

In this world, humans coexist with other races uneasily. Humans are the predominant race and seek to civilize the wilds populated by elves and elfkynan. The elves oppose this imperialism as it endangers the natural order. Many fantasies include tree-hugging elves, but I think that this book describes them and their stance better than others. Evans avoids generalizations. For example, not every elf is a nature lover, and the way one elf reveres nature may be different than another elf. He also hints at class differences: Visyna, an elfkynan aristocrat, looks down at the elfkynan fisher folk even though they respect nature as much as (or even more so) than she does. He also touches on religion, exemplified by the character of Inkermon, a religious fanatic. These nuances enrich the novel and make Konowa an interesting character, since he prefers steel and gunpowder over trees and magic.

Ultimately, I cannot praise A Darkness Forged in Fire too highly because I think Evans makes a glaring mistake: The novel's background is more provocative than the storyline. At the start, Konowa is exiled in the forest after being court-martialed as a traitor for murdering his superior.
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