Top positive review
Dark and surprising epic fantasy
February 26, 2019
Review originally posted on Booknest
The Forgetting Moon by Brian Lee Durfee invites you into a story that at first glance feels comfortingly familiar-only when you blink do you find these genre trappings twisted and cloaked in shadow while the ground begins to shift and devour you.
We should start with this book where I started with it- Richard Anderson’s cover. He’s one of the great cover artists for modern fantasy and this cover is no exception. We see a lonely knight resplendent with a long sword on a horse staring up at a castle in the distance. It’s a striking image that when placed on a book of this length tells a reader: This is epic fantasy! If you can carry it, it will be quite the adventure.
And that is what, in part, Brian delivers: fantasy and adventure. At least that’s what I thought it was. However the deeper I waded in, I found myself swept up in unknown currents and suddenly washed up on unfamiliar shores.
As I’ve said in many reviews before- it all comes down to character. And this, I surmise, is how Mr. Durfee has pulled off his magic trick. Our core perspectives are strategically placed not only in different places on this 2nd world map, but also on different sides of secrets and intrigue and religious beliefs. We might just go ahead and call this book the good kind of ‘grimdark’ in that it offers us complex and flawed characters. But I think there’s an extra layer here where we have characters that at times deceive both the reader and themselves even as we read from their perspective.
Another thing of note is that many of the perspectives are around 17-18 years of age. This offers us a sort of grimdark YA feel in that we have immature characters having to deal with their own emotional and personal growth as humans while dealing with horrible tragedy, graphic violence, war, rape(which occurs ‘off stage’), and secrets within secrets. It’s not an unusual choice for the beginning of an epic fantasy story but it’s used to great effect here. Most of our POV characters are trying to hold on to their religion and family and the life they knew as these things are cruelly ripped away from them again and again.
Intrigue and conflicting matters of religion met with the young adult perspectives make this epic fantasy tome largely about identity. Which I think is a pretty bold thing to do in an epic fantasy. Why do we believe what believe? Why do we trust who we trust? Are the secrets we keep from each other necessary or destructive? These are all questions that are explored in The Forgetting Moon with a degree of skill and subltety that I quite appreciated- even as I sense that Brian is still holding something back. This withholding is twofold: revelation to the characters and the answers to their questions; revelation to the reader on the machinations of the world and the story.
Overall I found The Forgetting Moon to be a very satisfying if perplexing work and I look forward to seeing these characters grow even as I ache to think what else they might have to go through as they do it.