Ice Forged (Ascendent Kingdoms #1)
by Gail Z. Martin

Orbit Books (Jan 2013)
Paperback, 592 pages

Condemned as a murderer for killing the man who dishonored his sister, Blaine “Mick” McFadden has spent the last six years in Velant, a penal colony in the frigid northern wastelands of Edgeland. Harsh military discipline and the oppressive magic of the governor’s mages keep a fragile peace as colonists struggle against a hostile environment. But the supply ships from Dondareth have stopped coming, boding ill for the kingdom that banished the colonists.

Now, McFadden and the people of Velant decide their fate. They can remain in their icy prison, removed from the devastation of the outside world, but facing a subsistence-level existence, or they can return to the ruins of the kingdom that they once called home. Either way, destruction lies ahead. (Goodreads)


The story starts with Blaine McFadden killing his brutal and evil father for brutalising his sister. As punishment King Merrill has Blaine sentenced to life in Velant, a cold, harsh prison on Edgeland where ice and cruelty prevail. The story jumps six years when Blaine has become Mick, the criminal yet citizen of Edgeland. He and his companions have managed to eek out an existence in brutal landscape. Life is a routine of staying alive and avoiding Prokeif, the warden of the prison. The inhabitants of Edgeland start to get concerned when the supply ships from Dondarath stop coming to the distant land, with everything about to change in Edgeland, and not just for Blaine and his friends.

The story then splits back to Dondareth and the life of Bevan Connor. War is brewing between the kingdoms and the threat of Edgar of Meroven and his mages is on everyone’s mind. Connor has become the bearer of secrets between his master Lord Garroc and the vampire, Penhallow. Penhallow gives him an amulet and sends him on a mission to find a map that has all the areas of magical power on it in King Merrill’s library. Life in Dondareth, and in fact all the kingdoms, is about to change dramatically when magic used in the war between Dondareth and Meroven burns across the land killing everyone and everything in its path. The castle is on fire, the King dead and Connor’s Lord lays dying. Everything Connor knows is gone when the storm of magic passes and with it all magic. He is ordered to flee by Garroc with the map and the amulet. Connor boards a ship bound for none other than Edgeland.

Magic governs every part of life in all the kingdoms from winning wars, to helping crops grow, to keeping the peace in a prison. As the magic dies the power of the mages who help control the convict population find themselves facing death at the hands of the prisoners they have brutalised and victimised for years. With the help of Blaine and his friends the prison is overtaken and Prokief killed by Blaine. The future of the community is in question as they rely heavily on trade with the mainland and they are unsure of how they will survive without the trade from Dondareth. This is where Blaine and Connor’s lives cross as the ship bearing Connor sinks and he is washed ashore.

When Connor and Blaine meet, a series of events uncovers the purpose of the maps and the amulet that Connor has brought with him. Blaine also comes to learn of an ancient tale that indicates that he is the only hope of magic returning to the land, and this also explains why there have been a number of attempts on his life in the previous weeks. The opportunity presents itself for Blaine, Connor and his new friends to return to Dondareth to discover the truth and try to bring magic back to the land. Life in Dondareth is bleak indeed with the charred and damaged landscape greeting the former criminals. Little remains of the life that Blaine and Connor knew and they look for answers from Penhallow. Connor and Blaine become separated during a siege from a rival vampire and Blaine returns home while Connor follows Penhallow. The story ends with the reader learning small tidbits of what awaits Blaine and his decision to search for Connor and the only remaining mage who may know how to help with his quest to bring back magic.

I enjoyed but did not love Ice Forged. I thought it was your standard epic fantasy with a richly detailed culture, religion and your typical good versus evil plot. I thought that Martin created a great piece of folklore around the prevalence of magic and the part Blaine plays in its return. Ice Forged was well written, but I think it ambled along a bit too slowly and Blaine seemed a bit too reluctant to be the hero. In fantasy you really want the hero to want to save the day and I wasn’t convinced this was the case for Blaine. Overall, a good story with lots of promise for the next books in the series.


Martin delivers a traditional fantasy plot line with a hero on a death defying mission with help from  his band of brave friends. Blaine McFadden, once lord now convict, is in a battle of his life to try to bring back the magic that has been burned from the land. A bit slow moving even for the most ardent of fantasy fans, but with lots of promise for the rest of the series.


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  1. Ice Forged



A displaced Canadian living in the UK who when not reading is often found trawling through GoodReads looking for something to read or buying another book on Amazon. [Melanie no longer reviews for the site.]


Kimberly @ Turning the Pages March 9, 2013 at 12:00 am

I’ve had my eye on this one for a while now, and I just put it on hold yesterday. Great review, too bad you didn’t like it more though.
Kimberly @ Turning the Pages


Melanie March 9, 2013 at 8:08 am

I think Martin is building up the story to hit the main action in next books. This one was very character driven . its a pretty easy read with a great front cover so still glad I read it


Rayn March 10, 2013 at 6:44 pm

I love character driven fantasy, but not really sure I want to invest in another series right now. I must say, the cover is horrible though.


Melanie March 10, 2013 at 7:27 pm

I know what you mean. One off fantasy is few and far between. If you want some seriously excellent character driven fantasy then you need to read Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay (if you haven’t already). Or he also wrote a duology called The Sarantine Mosaic which I really only thought was excellent when I was partway through book 2 but read together are incredibly fantastic.

*sorry* didn’t mind the cover. I thought the background was kind of lame but I have seen worse


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