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A Darkness Forged in Fire (Iron Elves Series #1)

A Darkness Forged in Fire (Iron Elves Series #1)

4.2 41
by Chris Evans

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Now in mass market, the first novel in the thrilling series of epic storytelling and adventure reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien and Bernard Cornwell...where musket and cannon, bow and arrow, and magic and diplomacy all wield power in an empire teetering on the brink of war.

In this world, Konowa Swift Dragon, former commander of the Empire’s


Now in mass market, the first novel in the thrilling series of epic storytelling and adventure reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien and Bernard Cornwell...where musket and cannon, bow and arrow, and magic and diplomacy all wield power in an empire teetering on the brink of war.

In this world, Konowa Swift Dragon, former commander of the Empire’s elite Iron Elves, is anything but ordinary. He’s murdered a Viceroy, been court-martialed, seen his beloved regiment disbanded, and finally been banished in disgrace to the one place he despises the most—the forest. All he wants is to be left alone with his misery...but for Konowa, nothing is ever that simple. Brimming with high adventure and intrigue, this is "a splendid read for fans of both science fiction and fantasy military adventure. Highly recommended" (Library Journal).

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This uncomplicated series debut introduces Konowa Swift Dragon, professional soldier turned full-time cynic. Exiled for killing the brutal viceroy of Elfkyna, an appointee of the Calahrian Empire who secretly served the evil witch known as the Shadow Monarch, Konowa has spent a year wandering around feeling sorry for himself. When the Shadow Monarch threatens the empire, Konowa reluctantly answers the call back to service, furious to find his former elite regiment filled with ordinary men and commanded by the incompetent heir to the throne. With anti-empire elfkynan witch Visyna Tekoy and cigar-chomping journalist Rallie Synjyn as his unlikely allies, Konowa must retrieve the prophesied Red Star and put down a rebellion. Evans hews closely to the high fantasy template, and slyly humorous details-an elf who hates forests, a dark lord who saves babies and saplings-never quite redeem the boilerplate story and its grouchy hero. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Shelly Shaffer
It is a world where the fight between good and evil hinges on trees that are alive, elves and spirits that interfere with nature's balance, and a race to find a magical star that ends in an epic battle. In this environment, Konowa Swiftdragon must wage his own personal battle against guilt from disappointment in his childhood, disgrace after being banned from his regiment for insubordination, and fear at letting his new regiment down. In this book, readers begin a journey into a fantasy world filled with creatures and magic that stretches the imagination. This series will be an interesting one for readers to follow, because it creates an entirely new world for the readers to explore. This book would benefit by the addition of some sort of guide explaining certain aspects of the book, such as how the magic works, why the elves fear iron in the first place, and the purpose of the acorn. Also, the book would benefit from the inclusion of a map; a new realm needs a map to help the readers visualize where this action in occurring, helping the readers to follow the battles. Book one of the "Iron Elves" series. Reviewer: Shelly Shaffer
Library Journal

Evans's debut military/fantasy novel, the first in the "Iron Elves" series, is not for the light fantasy reader. In it, Evans demonstrates his knowledge of military tactics, but listeners may be bored by the clichéd characters and dialog. Michael Kramer's (The Devil You Know) deep voice is pleasing, though at times the low end is booming and distorted. Not recommended as an audio acquisition. [The Pocket hc was an LJ Best Fantasy Book of 2008 and received a starred review, LJ 7/08.-Ed.]
—Johannah Genett

From the Publisher
"Strong storytelling, a compelling cast of heroes and villains, and a keen knowledge of military tactics of the Napoleonic era make this...a splendid read." ---Library Journal Starred Review

Product Details

Pocket Books
Publication date:
Iron Elves Series , #1
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 7.56(h) x 1.35(d)

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Read an Excerpt

A Darkness Forged in Fire Book One of the Iron Elves
By Chris Evans
Pocket Copyright © 2008 Chris Evans
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781416570516


Mountains shouldn't scream, but this one did.

The agony of the rock vibrated beneath the paws of a small, brown squirrel crouched low behind a boulder near the summit. The frigid night air thrummed in sympathetic harmony with the mountain, blurring the light from a shooting star trailing crimson fire across the sky. Shadows shattered and reformed, their shapes subtly altered.

The squirrel sat up on its hind legs and looked to the sky, its glittering eyes following the path of the red star as it burned across the sky toward the east. Letting out a sigh, the squirrel shook its small head; no matter how many centuries you had to get ready, prophecies always caught you off guard. The Stars were returning to the world. It was a strange thought for a squirrel to have, but not for the elf-wizard that had taken squirrel form.

Remaining transformed for the time being, the wizard dropped to all fours and leaped to another boulder a few feet higher up, stretching out his arms and legs to take advantage of the loose folds of fur between them. He landed on the next boulder huffing for breath. It was definitely easier to fly going downhill. He looked up to the mountain summit and shivered in spite of the fur that currently covered his body. A group of trees dotted the peak. And I'm just a squirrel, the wizard thought, rubbing his paws together for warmth before continuing his climb.

The wizard's tailbushed as he scampered closer to the top. With each jump the ground felt increasingly wrong. Something was changing it from the inside, and he knew what. The roots of the trees on the summit were clawing their way deep into the heart of the mountain to feed on the rock. Until tonight, they had been contained, isolated on this mountaintop where they could be controlled, if not destroyed. The falling of the Red Star in the east signaled that was no longer the case. A power not known in the world since the beginning of time was returning. Power that could either save it, or destroy it.

He concentrated on the forest, wishing he was powerful enough to wipe it from the face of the earth himself, but knowing it was far beyond him. He hoped, however, that his plan might help the one who could. All the wizard had to do was steal one small thing. And survive. It's why he had transformed himself. A wizard going into this forest would never return. A squirrel, on the other hand, had the slimmest of chances of surviving by going unnoticed.

He hoped.

The wizard paused again in his climb to catch his breath, watching it turn to mist and rise in the icy air, drawing his eyes to the trees that clung to the rock.

No living thing should have found a home there, yet the forest survived, its roots boring ever deeper into the rock, suckling on the bitter ore it found. Leaves turned iron-black, the wind honing them to a razor edge. Bark crystallized, growing translucent to reveal the thick ichor pulsing beneath while branches withered needle thin, stabbing down at the ground in the vain search for something fleshier to consume.

It was a forest, of a kind.

The mountain shuddered and sent chunks of rock cartwheeling down its side, as if trying to shake the forest loose. Just in time the wizard hid in a crevice until the avalanche had passed. He poked his head up a moment later and prepared to make the final dash into the trees. It didn't look promising -- arrowlike twigs splintered against rock with a sound of ringing iron as the trees now hunted among the shadows.

The wizard twitched his squirrel tail twice then darted between the crystal trunks in a wild dash for the center of the forest. Branches slashed down as he dodged and scrambled for his life.

Finally, out of breath and on the verge of exhaustion, he came to the very center of the forest.

There, on a ragged knuckle of granite, stood a silver Wolf Oak.

He knew the Wolf Oaks well, good nuts, but this one was wholly unlike the tall, majestic trees in the Great Forest of the Hyntaland on the plains below. Those trees were tall and proud, their limbs strong and supple in the nurturing sun. This tree shared none of those traits, growing low and wide across the rock, snaking its jagged limbs out in every direction to ensnare its progeny in a thicket of wild, dark hunger. Glinting, obsidian-shelled acorns covered the ground beneath it.

The forest was expanding.

The wizard felt the sudden urge to get off the ground and climb somewhere high. He looked at the trees around him and decided that the ground, as polluted as it was, was still preferable. It was as he feared. Being this close to the silver Wolf Oak was taking its toll; he was starting to think like a squirrel. Wolf Oaks were the natural conduits for the raw, elemental magic of nature, and among them the silvers had no equal. This one surpassed even them.

Five hundred rings ago, this silver Wolf Oak had been a sapling cub in the birthing meadow of the Great Forest, a new, young life full of promise. In time, it would have towered above the tallest trees, a singular being of incredible, if simple power, ruling and protecting the forest by influencing all living things around it. It had been that way since the beginning. Then the elves had come to the Hyntaland, and everything changed.

The wizard fought his most basic instincts -- elf and squirrel -- to flee down the mountain. Not yet though, not without getting what he came for. He placed one paw in front of the other and started to move cautiously toward the silver Wolf Oak, only to find his progress stopped because the more sensible squirrel part of his mind had wedged his tail between two rocks, saving his life.

Black, hoary frost sparkled on the rocks, radiating out from the tree in all directions. A moment later, a piece of night detached itself from the rest of the darkness.

The Shadow Monarch, elf witch of the high, dark forest, had come.

She stood beside the silver Wolf Oak, the reek of cold, metallic power filling the forest. He sensed more than saw. Her head turn and look toward him. His breath froze in his lungs, his vision darkening around the edges.

Her gaze moved on. He relaxed ever so slightly, drawing in the tiniest of breaths. Frost glistened off his whiskers.

The Shadow Monarch looked up to the sky, following the path of the fallen Red Star. She reached out to the tree. Anger, pain, desire, and something more infused the two, twisting the very air around them. Their madness wove together until their power was one and the same, staining everything. She then wrapped Her arms around the tree, a dark thing cradling a dark thing, and the wizard sensed what he had long feared: above all else, She wanted revenge.

The wizard raised his head, peering beyond his whiskers to the black tableau a few feet away. The Shadow Monarch was looking down at a pool of ichor beside the silver Wolf Oak. The pool shimmered, revealing an image of the Great Forest to the west of the mountain. Elves of the Long Watch, formed to protect the Great Forest from Her madness, patrolled among the trees. For centuries now they had kept Her at bay, forever vigilant, keeping Her and Her forest isolated high on the mountain.

It was a comforting vision. What happened next wasn't.

Black flame flickered in the Great Forest, and elves and trees began to shrivel and die. Stars fell, but wherever they landed Her forest was there, devouring the Stars' power and making it Her own. New trees burst forth from the cold earth like daggers of crystal and ore. These trees spread, covering more and more ground until no free space remained...blanketing mountain and desert, lake and ocean, in one dark forest.

The mountain shuddered anew. A different image formed in the dark pool. Soldiers now stood about, their green jackets and iron muskets the unmistakable hallmarks of the Calahrian Imperial Army, the sharp edge of the human empire across the ocean.

The image in the pool pulled back, revealing more. There was a small fortress on a hill, vaguely familiar to him. Power flowed from Her to the pool and the image grew larger as She searched for something there. The wizard gasped as Her magic suddenly washed over him. He struggled to keep control and remember why he was here, knowing he was slowly losing the fight as the magic of Her forest wreaked havoc with his mind.

The shooting star blazed across the sky above the small fort, then stopped, hanging there like a red sun. The brilliance of its light grew until the ichor turned completely crimson. And then the light was gone and no sign of the star remained, but something had changed.

Slowly, silently, he inched out of his hiding place and crept along the ground toward the thing he had come for. Every step was a cold needle in his paws, but there, just a foot away, lay one of the silver Wolf Oak's obsidian-shelled acorns. It was close, but he needed a distraction.

He concentrated, trying to draw magic from the foul power that coursed around him. Wincing with pain, he sifted it in his mind until he was able to cleanse enough to perform one small spell. It would have to do.

He focused his thoughts on a tree on the other side of the clearing, and for a moment it looked more like what it should have been; brown and green and healthy. The other trees attacked it at once, flailing and stabbing it in a flurry of branches. The wizard lunged, grabbing the acorn between his paws and stuffing it into his mouth. Cold lightning flashed through his head, but he managed to scamper back behind a rock before spitting the acorn out into his paws where it steamed in the air.

The mountain shuddered again, a deep, mournful sound. Rock sundered. Chasms opened deep into the mountain's core, laying bare its ancient past. Flames of black frost leaped from the darkness and high into the night sky. Her forest dug ever deeper, delving more than rock, reaching back to an age long past. Primal, red-throated roars not heard for hundreds of years filled the air, and they were hungry. Another voice rose above them, and the bit of the wizard that remained in control shivered at the words.

You shall feed, too, She told them. Roots pulled misshapen creatures from the depths. They spilled forth in black heaps, a shambling mass of crooked limbs and milky white eyes.

Go out in this world as you once did. Gather to me those that bear my mark. Those others that would harm My realmÊ.Ê.Ê.Êdestroy.

Every fiber in his body told him to run while his luck held, but he had to risk one last look in the pool. Like the Great Forest, tongues of frost fire were engulfing the fortress on the hill, burning everything. Her trees breached the earth, their roots clawing, searching for the star that had fallen there.

Enough. He stuffed the acorn back in his mouth and ran for his life.

The pain was overwhelming, but he had to get back down the mountain with his prize. Every leap took him further away from this infernal place and closer to the one who now had a chance to stop Her.

When he reached the bottom of the mountain he found a nearby cave and crawled into it, spitting the acorn out and collapsing in a heap, his body transforming to that of an elf again. He let the pain and exhaustion take him, drifting into unconsciousness with the satisfaction of knowing he had succeeded in the first part of his task. When he was fully recovered he would be able to deliver the prize in person.

High up on the mountain, the Shadow Monarch stood watching. She saw the elf-wizard collapse in the cave. Creatures stood beside Her, waiting. Some still bore the look of elves, though terribly twisted. They waited for the command to tear the wizard to shreds. The command did not come. Instead, the Shadow Monarch smiled.

Worlds shouldn't scream, but this one would.

Copyright © 2008 by Chris Evans


Excerpted from A Darkness Forged in Fire by Chris Evans Copyright © 2008 by Chris Evans. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Strong storytelling, a compelling cast of heroes and villains, and a keen knowledge of military tactics of the Napoleonic era make this...a splendid read." —-Library Journal Starred Review

Meet the Author

Chris Evans is a historian as well as an editor of military history and current affairs books.

Audiobook veteran Michael Kramer has recorded more than two hundred audiobooks for trade publishers and many more for the Library of Congress Talking Books program. An AudioFile Earphones Award winner and an Audie Award nominee, he earned a Publishers Weekly Listen-Up Award for his reading of Savages by Don Winslow.

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Darkness Forged in Fire (Iron Elves Series #1) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Darkness Forged in Fire is a terrific fantasy, set in a fascinating world akin to the times of the Napoleonic Wars. I enjoyed the story and its characters. Particular the lead character, Konowa - an officer his men can look up to and trust, yet still driven by his own foibles. His sidekick, Jir, is a set of teeth and claws to be reckoned with, while his good friend, the Duke, provides his own satisfying reckoning at the end of the story. The story is populated with great, interesting characters like Konowa and the Duke of Rakestraw. Combine that with an engrossing story and you've got a read that you can get caught up in. I found myself losing hours, and it's definitely a good way to lose those hours. Highly recommended. I'm ready for book two in the series, bring it on!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Being a fan of high fantasy as well as the age of black powder weapons, I was really excited by the idea of a serious take on what could best be described as Napoleonic era in a fantasy setting with Elves, Dwarves, Orcs. Fantasy elements wedded with the gritty nature of an era made popular by the Sharpe novels, what fan of both fantasy fiction and historical fiction of those time would not jump at this.* * * * * Unfortunately this book falls short in execution. One expected a masterful blend of the grit and heroics of the Napoleonic age with the wonderment and enchantment of high fantasy from Tolkien, but what we have in this novel is a two popular themes slap dashed together that has to do with each other as much as oil immersed in water. You have the fantasy element of a mysterious sinister shadow monarch, then an industrial Empire a thinly veiled Victorian Britain. The cliches by themselves are not bothersome, but that fact that they really did not mesh together was the problem, for all the interactivity and interplay between the fantasy element and the gunpowder element, we could well replace the muskets with laser guns and there would have been little notice or effect on the fantasy story. Similarly we could replace the Shadow Monarch with some shallow James Bond villain and there would be little alteration to the Napoleonic side of the setting.* * * * * The characters too were stilted and flat, although its apparent the story tries very hard to give them depth. They certainly could not be accused of being two dimensional, but the problem is all this depth seems prefabricated and forced, and tries to ram the hundred layers of depth the author wrote up for his characters down the reader's throat in the first few chapters. The chemistry between the main character and love interest was also unnatural, a relationship right of an adolescent's inexperienced fantasy.* * * * * The only two interesting characters and saving grace to this story were the sorta comic relief, an old veteran dwarf and a bespectacled country boy recruit. And on the historical side, the Author knew his stuff, the military life and the gun drills are well written, and the one really great thing that stood out was the recruitment pamphlet used to attract soldiers to sign up to the Iron Elves regiment, it had the perfect blend of fantasy and Napoleonic era Britain that the rest of the book tries to capture but falls short.
SoDisappointed More than 1 year ago
I'm giving this a two in the hopes that if I can bear the read much longer and actually finish this book that it will get better. I'm a quarter of the way through and I'm strongly questioning the wisdom of my purchase. So far, trite dialog, thinly disguised character cliches and all in all very very elementary writing have kept me from enjoying the Napoleonic setting. I'm hoping it gets better, although I almost erased it off my nook when I read the tired cliche "Get your musket out of my back. That's not my musket" line. Soon after, that infantile and unoriginal gem is followed by a dwarf with a highly improbable and ridiculous weapon which is essentially a crossbow married to double barreled musket. This coupled with very thin if not inaccurate detail on loading and firing flintlocks, makes one question if the author had ever bothered to study the weaponry of the period or anything else from that period. Frankly that really rips me because the supposed setting was my whole reason for the purchase in the first place. I'm going to try to get through the rest of it, but its a challenge to even sit through one chapter of this juvenile series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story started sooooo slow, w/characters I didn't like, the dwarf & the young recruit made the story for me. It was hard but I try to always finish a book & it paid off. By the end I really enjoyed the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow pretentious much? That guy
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In this book, ‘A Darkness Forged in Fire’, by Chris Evans, we learn the main character, Konowa Swift Dragon, was cast out of his elven tribe because of a marking on his ear. This marking was a sign from the Shadow Monarch, the antagonist of this story. Basically this means he was cursed; the tribe had a ritual where they would ‘bond’ with a special tree, which gave them some form of enlightenment. He was cast out, and as he grew up decided to join the Calahrian Imperial Army as an officer. He later is dishonorably discharged for assassinating the Viceroy of his Regiment; as the Viceroy was evil, to say the least. Konowa and his Regiment, ‘The Iron Elves’, were disbanded, and Konowa was forced to live in seclusion, in the woods for a number of years. After a number of years, he meets a girl who was told to bring him back to the Empire. Seeing as he hadn’t talked to anybody in quite a while, he assumed she was trying to kill him and attacked her; they fought for a bit, and the girl, Visyna, tells him that the Duke of Rakestraw sent her. Later in the book we find out he used to be friends with the Duke. He informs Konowa that the Prince of Calahr is seeking an artifact, and has ordered the Iron Elves to be reformed. Konowa is a bit sketchy towards the idea, mostly because the Prince would be the commanding officer, and the Prince had NO military knowledge what-so-ever, aside from the books he had read. He finally agreed as the Duke and multiple others talked him into it. From there, they gather troops, and take off towards the artifact… My overall opinion of this book was that it was a very entertaining book after the first few chapters. I was very bored the first 2-3 chapters because it was solid details on something I had no idea about. It cleared up quite a bit, and made much more sense after the 4th chapter or so. With that being said; after the 4th chapter, I became so entertained with the book, that I found it hard to stop reading. This book is a fantasy-military style book, so I would only recommend it to people who like fantasy-style books, and like military-style books. Personally, I liked the book, although it could get confusing at times. There was so much detail thrown at me, I forgot what I was reading about; but not so much I was completely lost. Again, I really enjoyed reading the book, but it had quite a bit of detail. -Jake M.
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NicholasTang More than 1 year ago
super fun book to read, recommended
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rkbush More than 1 year ago
A great read! It's a rare book that allows you to become so lnvolved with the characters where you laugh out loud and get mad when you reach the end!
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