CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 9. . . .November 4, 2016
Forest of Ruin. (The Age of Legends Trilogy, #3).
Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada, 2016.
436 pp., hardcover & epub, $22.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-385-67204-7 (hc.), ISBN 978-0-385-67205-4 (epub).
Grades 8-10 / Ages 13-15.
Review by Kim Aippersbach.
Moira heard Gavril shout her name, and then the cavern went dark, every torch extinguishing at once. She yanked out her daggers and pushed her sister against the wall, guarding her as Ashyn whispered, “Moira?”
“Sorcery,” Moira said. That was all she said. All she dared say. She would not speak his name, as if to do so would —were she wrong—somehow bring him, manifested like a spirit. Yet she had no doubt who the cowled man was. That voice was branded on her brain.
She had asked Gavril what his father had planned next. Gavril had said he didn’t know, but feared it was sorcery. Now they had their answer. More than sorcery. Alvar had planned to murder Ashyn to raise dragons.
Forest of Ruin is the final book in Kelley Armstrong’s “Age of Legends” fantasy/horror trilogy that began with Sea of Shadows and continued in Empire of Night. At the beginning of the third book, Moira and her twin sister Ashyn have been separated: Moira is headed back to Alvar Kitsune’s prison to spy on him, in the company of his son, Gavril, who she thought had betrayed her but who has really been working for the emperor against his father all along. Ashyn and a seriously injured Ronan are in the cave home of people claiming to be her mother’s family. Edwyn says he is her grandfather and tells her she must awaken a dragon to save the empire.
Moira and Gavril are captured by bandits before reaching Alvar’s camp. When they escape and are joined by Tyrus, the emperor’s son, they happen to discover the captured children of Edgewood. Meanwhile, Ashyn helps nurse Ronan back to health while she learns about the dragons, but then Ronan leaves in the middle of the night. During the ceremony to awaken a dragon, Ashyn realizes that her blood is required and her “grandfather” intends to kill her. Ronan returns in the nick of time with Moira, Tyrus and Gavril, but Alvar Kitsune arrives as well—Edwyn was working under his orders. In the fighting, Moira is stabbed near a baby dragon; it wakes and imprints on Tyrus. Alvar flees rather than fighting with Tyrus. Moira, Ashyn and their allies then free the captured children and bring them and the dragon back to the capital city. Alvar Kitsune sneaks into the palace with shadow stalkers, captures the emperor and begins killing his sons. Gavril interposes himself between Tyrus and Alvar’s blade and is killed, but in a final sorcery Alvar exchanges his own life for his son’s.
While Forest of Ruin ties up all the plot threads of the “Age of Legends" trilogy, it fails to deliver as much excitement and action as the previous books. There are sword fights and a few encounters with fiend dogs and shadow soldiers, but a great deal of the narrative is spent exploring feelings.
Moira regains her trust in Gavril and affirms—and consummates—her love for Tyrus. In a positive spin on the typical love triangle, Gavril values his friendship with Tyrus over his feelings for Moira, and the three end the novel as friends. Ashyn and Ronan slowly admit their feelings for each other, although Ashyn imposes a contrived barrier to their relationship so they can’t get together until the end.
Gavril is the only character who develops significantly in this book; plot, character and setting mostly lack depth or nuance. Moira and Ashyn figure out how to defeat the shadow stalkers, but otherwise there is little explanation or use of the fantasy elements of the story. The dragon is cute but has no plot function. The climactic battle against Alvar Kitsune is on a smaller scale than might be anticipated, but Gavril’s self-sacrifice is suitably dramatic.
Themes of loyalty, friendship and parent-child relationships are touched on and provide redeeming moments in a novel that often feels contrived and labored.
Forest of Ruin is a must-read for those who enjoyed the first two books of the trilogy. It will satisfy or disappoint depending on whether readers wanted more romance or more fighting (and whether they wanted Moira to end up with Gavril).
Kim Aippersbach is a writer, editor and mother of three living in Vancouver, BC.
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