Title: Ice Forged
Author: Gail Z Martin
Series: #1 of the Ascendant Kingdoms series
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Description: 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...
My thoughts: I love a good epic fantasy, and this is an excellent start to just such a series. Blaine is sentenced right at the beginning of the story, and takes on the name Mick to hide from the past and give himself a new start. The story covers his long journey on the ship full of other convicts to Velant, where the winters are long, harsh, and with virtually no daylight. However the story is equally focussed on a young man (whose name I can't find just now, it's a while since I've read this one!) who lives in the capital city of Dondareth, Blaine's homeland. He is the aide to someone on the ruling castle and through him you see some of the events that cause the supply ships to stop going to the colonists.
As the reader, seeing both viewpoints, you get a much clearer view of what's going on than the characters and that made it frustrating sometimes to see one group discussing a course of action based on what they knew, when to me it was clear that they should be taking a different path. This is particularly relevant nearer the end, when one group of characters knows that a bad thing will happen if someone does a certain thing, and the other group, unable to talk to them, decides to do that thing. It actually added a lot more tension to the story, having the collective knowledge which the characters lacked, and knowing they were walking into danger when they were unaware of it.
There is a slight supernatural element to the story, which I wasn't expecting. It caught me completely by surprise when it was revealed. I'm still not sure why it was necessary to bring in but I'll hold my judgement until I've read the second book.
Overall I'm giving Gail Z. Martin's 'Ice Forged' 7 out of 10. I'm planning on picking up book 2 next time I'm home and can raid my parents' bookshelves.