The Forever Knight by John Marco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Eyes of God, The Devil’s Armor, and The Sword of Angels, collectively known as the Lukien novels, follow the tale of a well esteemed knight and confidant to the young king. His betrayal to Akeela is legendary, as is the lengths he goes to try and save his beloved Cassandra. His loss and despair are horrific. His chance to redefine who he is epic. So when word came out that there would be a new book following Lukien’s plight, John Marco fans took note.
Then the news broke: The Forever Knight would be in first person. The shift in perspective for this new cluster of Bronze Knight novels has its pros and cons. The reader’s are given a stronger connection with Lukien, and through proxy, Malator. What’s lost is the artistry that is folded in to the story via other characters’ entrances and exits, a key signature of Marco’s. While Diriel’s narrative of his kingdom’s decent into cannibalism is a great example of the character’s story telling abilities, it lacks the author’s ability to conjure up emotional and riveting details. Though I’m not a personal fan of any sort of first person narrative, I do feel that Marco shows a lot of promise. I’m just a bit nostalgic for in depth descriptions of previous novels that made me feel as if I was truly there.
That being said, the lack of scenic descriptions and individual character backstory is made up for with Crezil. Being the first “monster” that has actually graced any of this writing, Crezil helps to prove that horror might someday have Marco’s name on it. The drawing of this guardian of another realm might be created by words alone, but it’s a design that I would never want to see put to any other form of media, as even the alphabetic version is pretty gruesome. The direct connection with Diriel and the corrupt warlord’s ancestors makes one wonder what creatures their own ancestors are connected to – and what might be lurking in the past waiting for them.
The only complaints that I have with this novel are wrapped around the Akari and Malator. First off, the idea that Malator can appear to others as he wants seems like a bit of a cop-out to me. Now, understand I have no idea where Marco plans to take this, so there might be a reason for it. But it comes across as a vain attempt to have Cricket understand and trust Lukien in regards to what his Akari is and isn’t telling him. The move takes a lot of the needed growth of dealing with other people from Lukien and uses Malator as a scapegoat in doing so. More importantly, I’m left wondering if the Akari are so lonely in their death places – as the reader is led to believe in the previous works involving the Inhumans – than why don’t they all essentially abandon their death places and waltz around with their Inhumans and such? Or is this limited only to powerful Akari such as Malator?
My second beef with Malator has to do with his admission to Lukien that the soulless can transcend between realms, and because of this, that Lukien can indeed be with Cassandra. Part of me was irate with Malator for keeping that from Lukien, but then I was instantly more irate with the idea of the lead character losing his only reason for continuing on as a knight, errant or otherwise. Cassandra has been his only driving force, whether it’s to find a way to no longer be Grimhold’s protector and die peacefully or a way to kill himself in a messy battle. While he currently is not at Grimhold, there’s is no guarantee that there will never be a reason for him to return. Why Malator would bother enticing him with this is beyond the scope of this reader.
Overall, The Forever Knight is an enjoyable, quick read. It’s not nearly as smooth as other writings from Marco, but it stands on its own very well. What it lacks in full bodied descriptions and character story lines is made up for in the smatterings of horror that thread through the book. (Put Crezil, Diriel, Wrestler, and the rape scene all in a book of their own and it would rival some of the works from Stephen King.) With the very open ending of the book, it will be interesting to see where Lukien ends up in the next one.
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