# of Pages: 371
Time it took me to read: 3 days
# of pages a day to finish in a week: 53
Rating: 4 out of 5
Ara has always dreamed of the destiny she was promised her whole life of becoming the Loresmith, chosen defender of Saetlund, like her father was before her. But just as she’s beginning to think she’ll never leave her small village and the life she’s always known, her fate finds her.
To free Saetlund from the crushing hands of the Empire that took over her land, she’ll need all the help she can get. Along with the royal twins, heir to Saetlund’s lost throne, a thieving servant of the god of travelers, and a secretive Summoner who’s power comes from the abundance of nature, Ara must find the reclusive gods of Saetlund if she hopes to reclaim her birthright as the next Loresmith. Though helped by some surprising allies, Ara and her new friends must travel far to find parts of Saetlund many consider to be only myth. But before Ara can help Saetlund become free again, she must prove her worth not only in the eyes of the gods, but to herself.
As a preface to the summary, I’ll provide a brief review. Some friends and I have formed a book club, we’ll be reading one book a month together, and once everyone is finished we’ll gather virtually and discuss. I got the opportunity to choose the first book of book club. I chose Forged in Fire and Stars from the various options I had in my to-read stack because I was nervous to “recommend” a book for our book club that I hadn’t read before, but I’d read other books by Andrea Robertson (who used to write under her maiden name, Andrea Cremer), so I felt confident that this book wouldn’t totally tank.
Despite having taken away one star from a perfect score, I’m thoroughly hooked on this as the first book in a new series. The world-building is creative and engaging, and the pantheon of gods Robertson has created are diverse and unique. My biggest criticism is that I feel as though I’m not particularly invested in the characters themselves. I’m certainly invested in the plot and where the storyline is going to go, but the characters aren’t particularly engaging for me. I’m certainly rooting for them, but I don’t feel for them, at least not yet. I’m certainly excited for the next installment, where hopefully there will be a bit more character-building now that the plot is fully set up in this first book.
Ara – fifteen years old, daughter of the last Loresmith who was slain when the Empire took over Saetlund. Raised by her grandmother, who taught her all she could about her destiny, she is bold when necessary, but often doubts herself. Interested romantically in Teth.
Eamon – eighteen years old, twin of Nimhea, royal child of the deceased King and Queen of Saetlund. Hidden away from Saetlund and raised in secret, he and his sister have returned to Saetlund to help Nimhea take her throne. A well-read scholar, he has been prone to bouts of illness his whole life and is not a capable fighter. Brilliant storyteller. Seems to have betrayed the group at the end of the book by leaving the rest and going to the Empire.
Nimhea – eighteen years old, twin of Eamon, royal child of the deceased King and Queen of Saetlund. The firstborn over her twin by a few minutes, she bears the distinctive fiery hair of the heir to the throne of Saetlund, and is determined to sit on that throne someday. She and her brother have returned to Saetlund to find and help the Loresmith gain power to help the rebellion take Saetlund back from the Empire. Well trained and very skilled with a sword. Romantically interested in Lahvja.
Teth – sixteen years old, a thief and and orphan. He was adopted by Lucket, the “Low King” of his province, and is a faithful servant of Eni, the god of travelers. Unwillingly agrees to help Ara and the twins reach their destination, but after finding out that Ara will be the next Loresmith, joins their quest, with the Low King’s blessing, to help Ara win the favor of the gods so that she can become the next Loresmith. Skilled with a bow and arrow. Romantically interested in Ara.
Lahvja – eighteen or nineteen years old, a member of Eni’s Children, a group of traveling artists who are known by the Empire as Imperial Players. A talented singer and by trade a Summoner, a magic practitioner who can communicate with the divine spirits of nature. She is very in-tune with the natural world, and often seems to know things the others do not. Unwilling to interfere with what she believes is the natural order of things. Romantically interested in Nimhea.
Lucket – Low King of Ara’s province. Adopted father of Teth. After meeting Ara, offers to help the rebellion by providing supplies and sending Teth with Ara and the twins on their quest to find the gods.
Eni – The genderless god of travelers in the Saetlund pantheon. Teth is their devoted servant, and they appear disguised throughout the story to help the questers along. Briefly disguises themself as Fox, the furry companion of Teth when Ara found him. Firmly on Ara’s side in wanting her to succeed to become the Loresmith.
Ara has lived her entire life in her small mountain village, far from the eyes of the Empire. Her father died before she was born, fighting off imperial invaders. His death told the emperor that there were no more Loresmiths, as her father appeared to be unmarried with no children. Ara’s mother went to live with her parents. When Ara was young, a fever took her mother and her grandfather, so she was raised by her grandmother and a family friend, who taught her the art of being a blacksmith. Ara’s grandmother taught her how to use Iron Branch, the stave of the Loresmith, given to Ara’s grandmother for safekeeping before her father died.
Ara had begun to believe that her destiny of becoming the Loresmith would never come to pass, and that the gods perhaps weren’t as interested in restoring Saetlund as she’d thought when she was little. But one stormy day twins Nimhea and Eamon arrive and tell her that they’re here to help her fulfill her destiny in becoming the Loresmith, and that they needed her for their rebellion to succeed and to free Saetlund from the Empire.
Ara joins Nimhea and Eamon on their journey to meet up with the rest of the rebellion. On their way, Ara catches a thief stealing from the twins. She chases after him through the woods, only to find herself in the ruins of a shrine to Eni, the god of travelers. She confronts the thief, who calls himself Teth, and convinces him to give back the jewelry and coins he’d stolen off of the twins. Ara calls upon his duty as a servant of Eni to help her get back to her camp. Unwillingly, Teth does so, and is thus roped into joining them on their journey into town to meet the rebellion.
They end up fighting off some bandits in the woods, where Ara successfully defends herself with Iron Branch, as she is not allowed to ever attack anyone, or else she will never be a Loresmith. Nimhea and Teth successfully kill the bandits. That night, they meet a mysterious traveler in the woods, and Ara feels compelled to offer this old woman Iron Branch to use as a crutch on her way home. The old woman denies her offer, which is a relief, but Ara feels as though she passed some kind of test.
Upon arriving in town, Teth is about to split from the group, but he asks Ara to meet him later that night. She is intrigued by this roguish thief, so she agrees.
Ara and the twins meet with the rebellion, which consists of a leader from each of the provinces. They want to bundle Nimhea up and keep her safe until the rebellion is ready to make a strike against the Empire. Eamon says that he and his sister must help Ara to find the gods and gain their blessings so that she can become the Loresmith. The rebellion says they’ll have to talk more about it later, but don’t seem inclined to let their prized heir go off on her own.
That night, Ara goes to meet Teth. After a scuffle in the bar, Teth takes her to a secret location which turns out to be the court of the Low King Lucket. Ara learns that every province has a Low King that is ruler of the thieves, assassins, prostitutes, etc. Basically anyone who operates outside of the law. And the Low Kings have a habit of being able to pay the Empire to keep its nose out of their business. Lucket is intrigued by Ara, who won’t admit to him or to Teth that she is going to be the Loresmith.
Teth walks her back to the inn, and Ara realizes she’s interested romantically in Teth. Nothing happens, but she does tell him that she’s the Loresmith, and Teth reveals that Lucket is his adopted father, who saved him from starvation when he was a young orphan.
The next day, Ara and the twins work to convince the rebellion to let them go off on their own to search for Ofrit’s Workshop, which legend says will help Ara on her quest. The rebellion is about to shut that all down, when Teth shows up with a deal. Lucket the Low King and the other Low Kings want to help the rebellion, and in exchange they must let the Loresmith continue on her journey with the twins, and Teth would go along for protection. All the rebellion had to do was look into the children that had been going missing from the province lately. They were worried the Empire was taking them, as they had taken all children of a certain age away when the Empire first took over Saetlund. The rebellion agreed, and travelers were off on their journey.
Near the end of the first leg of their journey, the group came upon a band of Eni’s Children, nomadic performers. The questers joined Eni’s children for food and performances. At their own camp later that evening, they are set upon by shadow hounds, sent by the emperors wizards to track them down. But before the hounds can reveal their location to the Empire, a mysterious figure is able to dissolve the shadow hounds and protect them. The stranger is revealed to be one of the performers from Eni’s Children, who’s name is Lahvja. She is a powerful Summoner, and says the gods have told her she is to join them and help the Loresmith on her quest. Though weary, they accept her help because they would have been toast without it.
(Throughout the story, the reader is given glimpses of the two sons of the emperor. The eldest is a military leader who is in charge of all the Empire’s armies, and with keeping an eye on the powerful but unpredictable younger brother, who is the ArchWizard. The ArchWizard is determined to find and capture both the Loresmith and Nimhea on behalf of his father, who “collects” such magical rarities from the kingdoms he controls. It is the ArchWizard who had his minions send the shadow hounds).
The travelers, now five, join a caravan controlled by Lucket’s people, to travel through dangerous bandit country. The group takes to Lahvja joining them pretty quickly, except for Eamon, who doesn’t seem to trust her. Nimhea and Ara both worry the long journey has been too tough on him, but he holes himself up alone every night, reading and rereading the legends that will help Ara find Ofrit’s workshop.
Their journey is pretty smooth, until their caravan is taken over by imperial recruiters, who are there to find any able-bodied men and women to join the army of the Empire. They are able to avoid detection, but the caravan is destroyed and they must continue on their own.
Soon after, they enter the Scourge, a dangerous desert known for being all but impassible. The questers forge on, and are nearly to their destination, the Bone Forest, when they are attacked by giant ants. Ara is able to save them and all of their horses using Iron Branch, but not without the seeming sacrifice of Fox, who sacrificed itself to stop the swarm of ants.
Teth is inconsolable, but the weary travelers reach the Bone Forest. Lahvja says that she and Teth will stay behind, that the rest of the journey is for Ara and the twins alone. They follow the path into the Bone Forest, where servants of Ofrit have traveled for centuries hoping to find Ofrit’s workshop, where they will learn his mystic ways and use them to become his holy servants in their communities. But first the trio must make their way through a number of tests.
Their first test comes in the form of two doors, one of which is said to be the correct entrance to the Labyrinth they will need to solve to enter Ofrit’s Workshop. The other will lead them into a part of the Labyrinth that they will never be able to escape. Eventually, Ara solves the riddle, in that neither of the doors are correct, that they must travel up the “stairs” in the center of the doors, which allows them to continue on the path that they’d been on before. Upon solving the puzzle, they are in the Labyrinth at last, which is yet another set of riddles that are custom to Ara, who is the main quester. Eventually, they are able to find themselves on the correct path after figuring out the order of the pathway is set based on the Loresmith attributes from the stories. They have passed the test and are able to enter Ofrit’s Workshop.
In the workshop they meet Ofrit, who is grumpy and does not appear to want to help them. But then Eni appears, and the god of travelers reveals that they’ve been helping Ara and her group all through their travels. She convinces Ofrit to help them, and Ara, Nimhea, and Eamon are given two scrolls to help them find the rest of the gods to petition for their help. Eni also tells them that Ara will need to re-form the Loreknights, which in the past have been the protectors of Saetlund who wield special weapons forged by the Loresmith. Eni also tells Ara to let Teth know he need not mourn, that his companion Fox is safe at home waiting for him, that the Fox that sacrificed itself for them was in fact Eni wearing the disguise of Fox to help keep them safe on their journey.
Then, in the blink of an eye, the trio is gone from Ofrit’s workshop and back with Teth and Lahvja. The group celebrates the success of their first mission, and Ara and Teth share a long awaited kiss. But when they wake the next day to start on their next journey, the group finds that Eamon is gone, and he leaves a notes that suggests that he betrayed them to the Empire and has left to join them, though he says that he only did it to protect his sister.
Nimhea is beyond grief and Ara just can’t understand how their friend betrayed them like that. Clutching the note that spelled out Eamon’s betrayal, but also was clearly soaked in his tears as he wrote it, Ara finds that she has meditated herself into the forge of the Loresmith. There, Eni is waiting for her and tells her that now is the time to forge her first weapon as Loresmith. She has all the materials she needs, along with a special ingredient that she finds she is able to imbue the weapon with. When she is done, she has forged a bow and five arrows, which are tipped with the solid form of Eamon’s tears. This weapon is meant for the first LoreKnight, which Eni says will be Teth.
Ara returns to the real world and regroups her friends to continue their journey, as Eamon did leave one of the two of Ofrit’s scrolls behind.
In the epilogue, we are once again given a glimpse of the eldest son of the Empire, and it looks to be that he is the high-ranking double agent that the rebellion said was helping them from within the Empire, code name “The Dove”.
End of Book 1
A few last remarks. I picked up on the identity of “The Dove” pretty early on, but I was impressed by how surprised I was at Eamon’s betrayal. There were several little clues sprinkled throughout that I was able to see afterward, but I did not see it coming, and for that I tip my hat to Robertson.
!!!End of Spoilers!!!
Have you read Forged in Fire and Stars? If so, let me know how you liked it by leaving me a comment. I’m pretty happy with this first book club pick of mine, and I’m excited for the second installment of the Loresmith series, which is set to release June of 2021.
If you enjoyed Forged in Fire and Stars, try:
The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Defy by Sara B. Larson
Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian