I think kids are going to love Forstborn: Thrones and Bones by Lou Anders. As someone who has never been interested enough in middle grade fantasy (fantasy for ages 8-12), I was really impressed with how much I liked this. Frostborn is a smart adventure story for fans of dragons, frost giants, dwarves, swordfights and strategy games. There is a fair amount of humor, one example coming from two-headed trolls that our young hero Karn must outsmart to survive. There are also funny draugs, Walking Dead soldiers who play a kind of dumb grave guard as they chase our heroes.
Anders does a good job combining the lighthearted feel of this genre’s fantasy adventure with high stakes conflict. His two main characters meet ghosts, dragons and more. They have to wield magic and smarts to escape fast-paced chase scenes and to save the lives of their family. The content of the battles is light enough for parents who may afraid of gore in their children’s reads, but for imaginative adults, the action is exciting and painful in the unspoken subtext. Frozen worms through a nose? Ouch, but the description isn’t like you’d see in an adult movie. The effect worked perfectly for both audiences.
On top of all this fun and adventure is a coming of age story for our two young children. The first, Karn, is only interested in playing his Thrones and Bones boardgame. His father will pass down the family farm when he dies, so it is important to him that he train Karn to succeed. He loves his son, and when they pass on into the afterlife, he wants to be able to move on with pride. We feel that desire of Karn for his father to be proud, but we also feel his wanting to not have to be stuck taking care of a farm when so much adventure and travel could be had. Karn shows his strengths in a good heart and a keen mind at strategy as learned through his game. Anders told a well rounded and emotional story for Karn that utilized his strengths while also forcing him to grow. He will be a great character to follow in future books.
The other main character is a half-breed human frost giant who is the child of a hero, but has doubts in her self because she is only half as tall as the pure bred frost giants she lives with. Her story also involves loving parents and a new friend, Karn, who want her to see where she is special and strong instead of different and weak. I had fun watching her grow up and utilize her skiing and other special powers and abilities as they run down hill from a fearful enemy. Great ending to her story as well.
Anders gets five stars for creating such likable characters, making them think and mature to meet larger-than-life challenges, and for starting what will be a series of books that kids and adults will love to escape into and explore.
Timothy C. Ward
Timothy C. Ward has been podcasting since 2010, first as AudioTim, and now with AISFP. His newest story, Scavenger: A Sand Diver Tale, is available on Kindle for $.99, or free on Kindle Unlimited. His novel in progress, Order After Dark, is a Post-apocalyptic Fantasy set in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases.