The Commanding Stone by David Forbes

Published by EOS           
ISBN 978-0-06-082044-2               
Paperback, October 2009            
396 Pages


With two strong-minded cultures in the midst of a growing conflict, David Forbes continues his Osserian Saga in The Commanding Stone. Powers hinted at in The Words of Making and The Amber Wizard begin to make themselves more apparent to the characters and take a more active role in the world.

One thing that becomes apparent with each volume in this saga is that David Forbes has a clear vision of where he is taking these characters. Forbes also raises the stakes in this volume, with the threat of returning dragons as a clear indicator that Gerin’s awakening to power as the Amber Wizard was just the first of vast and legendary powers returning to the world. 

The novel begins with one young man, Tyne, putting the body of his brother to eternal rest. When the legendary Vanil, giants, awakened in the previous volume, Tyne’s brother was killed.  Tyne is grieving, wishing for some kind of retribution, and blames Gerin for his brother’s death.  His wish is granted in the form of the titular Commanding Stone, which allows him to bend the will of dragons to his wishes.  In short, Tyne makes a deal with the devil, or the Adversary as he’s known in Forbes’s world.

Meanwhile, Gerin is still recovering from the aftermath of the previous volume and attempting to strengthen his Kingdom. Elaysen, who in the previous volume acted as something of a possible romantic interest and religious mentor, takes an even more prominent role.  Throughout the novel, Forbes unravels her character from one of calm and cool to a person unhinged from sanity and what she considers normal life.  Here, Forbes was a little uneven because Elayne bordered between convincingly annoying and fell into plain annoying at times.

We see a little more of the Havalqa in this volume, particularly Tolsadri and Algariq the woman who brought Gerin to Tolsadri in the previous volume.  There’s a bit of a rehash of a scene depicted in The Words of Making with one different character, but Forbes does differentiate the scene from the scene it mirrors in the previous book. Essentially, Gerin was raped by Algariq in order for her to use her magic in the previous and in this volume, she rapes one of Gerin’s trusted men – Balandrick.  However, this succubus-like character does grow from what she was as a result of her interactions with Gerin in the previous volume and Forbes touches on some of the depth of the character at which he hinted in the previous volume. On the whole, this character grew logically and plausibly from one book to the next, and Forbes handled it very well.

The conclusion of The Commanding Stone was a rousing one, to say the least.  The confrontation between Tyne and Gerin was built up with palpable dramatic tension over the course of the novel, with Tyne’s hatred and embitterment towards Gerin growing into a seething rage until he saw the Amber Wizard.  At times, Tyne came across a bit one-dimensional, but overall, Forbes gave him a fair sense of empathy.  The clash of magic and dragons came across as a rather awe-inspiring event, and one that could be a hint of things to come.

Forbes, at this point, is planning on concluding this series with the next, as of yet untitled novel.  He throws quite a few fantasy elements and tropes into the mix here in The Commanding Stone: wizards (of course), dragons, a hidden magical library, a dark lord (the Adversary), a magical staff (made of pure magic), but he makes it work together almost organically.  The three books up to this point have shown a writer whose skills in characterization and world building are growing and as I’ve said before, a writer who seemingly has a plan for his characters and this world.  If the fourth volume can build on what has come before, then David Forbes will have crafted a solid and entertaining fantasy saga.

© 2009 Rob H. Bedford

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