I have read and enjoyed other Ehvelen stories by Bob Rich, but The Making of a Forest Fighter was something different for me. Not that I didn't enjoy it -- I did, very much -- but it presented me with a whole new point of view. For one thing, most of the story was seen through the eyes of Ribtol, a Doshi warrior and mortal enemy of the diminutive Ehvelen. For another, I was unprepared for the complexity of a story that combines history with fantasy in such a seamless way.
The Doshi are nomadic horsemen from the steppes of Asia, who live for fighting and conquest, and the Ehvelen are peaceable elf-like beings who inhabit the forests bordering these open grasslands. But this is no simple story of tribes of warlike thugs meeting gentle civilised people, for both societies have a complex hierarchy, set of customs, patterns of speech and religious beliefs, and both peoples display courage, humour and compassion as well as a range of human weaknesses. They are real people, well-rounded and believable.
It is to Bob's credit that he presents both sides of the conflict in a realistic way, so one feels sympathy for the Ehvelen desperately defending their territory and way of life, and also for young Ribtol, wrestling with his insights and feelings as he accompanies his warlike brethren into battle. We encounter many things we find distasteful in Doshi society -- slavery, cruelty, the oppression of women -- but in the context of the times and people involved, these horrors are more than just gratuitous shocks to the system. Rather, they display the realism of life within a strongly patriarchal society. One may not like the Doshi as a people, but by the end of The Making of a Forest Fighter one has at least enjoyed the company of one young warrior as he learns to transcend the savagery of his people and become fully human.
Bob supplies a lot of explanatory detail in notes at the end, and I found myself reading this after I finished the story, and then re-reading parts to gain a better understanding of this complex and fascinating tale.
Max Overton writes in a variety of genres, including excellent historical fiction in times as varies as that of Alexander the Great, Ancient Egypt, and the Second World War.
From the first couple of paragraphs, this amazing story captured my interest and my imagination, and kept me enthralled to the very last page. It is not an era that I am familiar with, but the author has remarkable knowledge and it shows.
The story revolves around the Doshi people and their sworn enemies the Ehvelen, or as the Doshi prefers to call them, the Midgets because of their small stature.
The Doshi are brave warriors, who confront their enemy head on, whereas the Midgets engage in a type of guerrilla warfare, very effective and deadly. The Doshi are barbaric in some of their customs, i.e., whipping and gelding of male slaves, but in the context of the story and the era, it is not gratuitous.
The hero is Ribtol, a young Doshi warrior who truly loves his wife Karinn and I found there interaction to be quite romantic. Lyalla, a woman who was once a captive of the Doshi, becomes the leader of the Midgets, and she wages a long and bitter guerrilla campaign against them.
There is a bit of everything in this book: adventure, bravery, treachery and love, and I would certainly recommend it for anyone wanting an exciting and interesting read.
It is impeccably written and well edited.
Award Winning Author.
The Making of a Forest Fighter is a tale of the Doshi, a warrior tribe similar to the Huns, solely occupied in wars of aggression and revenge. The saga of Harila's War recounts the Doshi attack on the Ehvelen (whom the reader quickly recognizes as the Elven) -- humans versus beings far superior to us, though smaller in size: the Little People.
We are introduced to the narrator, Ribtol, from the beginning, the Forest Fighter of the title. Admirable from the first sentence of this unusual book with its stark realism combined with faerie, Ribtol shows compassion, flexibility, and the ability to learn from cultures other than his own, which is rigidly hierarchical. The reader comes to admire him, in part because of his very human weakness -- fear. He considers himself a coward, since before he goes into danger, he suffers nightmares that leave him drenched in sweat. To cure himself, he volunteers for the most perilous expeditions. Unlike his peers, he is kind to women and treasures his wife Karinn, even though she is short, and by implication therefore inferior to others.
The book portrays one bloody battle after another, with staggering losses of Doshi fighters. Given the high rate of attrition, women, who should be prized as givers of life, are valued the same as slaves. A woman with a daughter and far advanced in pregnancy is barely worth a horse.
The author displays rich imagination in his account of three very different cultures: the peace- and beauty-loving Ehvelen (who, when attacked, slaughter the aggressor with efficiency and finesse), the Areg, a nation of traders, who bargain with the Doshi for timber captured from Ehvelen forests, and, of course, the Doshi themselves. Author Rich paints them almost entirely from Ribtol's point of view. Ribtol speaks in the Doshi fashion, using complex honorific titles, idiosyncrasies of speech (including “eh?” at the end of every question), and a unique measuring system of time and distance. The reader is well advised to read the explanatory notes at the end of the book!
We watch Ribtol grow from callow youth through fear courageously overcome, wounding and suffering, but most of all through his intelligent, kindly nature, into a true human being, closer to the Ehvelen than to his own savage kind -- a most satisfying "redemption" for the protagonist.
Florence Weinberg is a talented writer of mysteries and/or historical novels. I've so far read three of her books, and will be back for more.
The first review is here, by Marlies Bugmann, the artist who painted the wonderful picture for the cover art. She writes:
When I created the cover for 'The Making of a Forest Fighter' for Dr Bob, I was intrigued by the concept of the design as I received it from Zumaya Publications, but moreover, by the pertinent scenes that I read in order to create the image. Now that this book has won the 2002 Dream Realm Awards in its category, I found myself drawn to it even more and when Dr Bob asked me to write a review, I welcomed the opportunity 'de rigueur' to finally read it cover to cover, as I had put it off again and again -- studies and setting up my own arts practice see me work almost 25 hours a day.
The author created (or rather re-created) a world long-gone, a world so mysterious that modern thinking may never grasp its entire 'raison d'etre', other than it was a step of man's evolution toward what he is today. Ribtol soon becomes a person that grips the reader with his secretly held terror that his own purpose in life, to be a warrior, bestows on him. His exploits, though, soon beg a comparison to modern warfare, that of cutting down entire forests to reach and destroy one's enemies, and in my way of thinking, the forest of the Doshis' enemies, the Midgets, are but a parable to our modern habitats, especially cities and large urban habitats, that, once destroyed see a people in flight, unable to exist coherently.
The heroic deeds of the Midgets soon sees the reader switch camp and secretly hoping that the Midgets 'win', no matter how likeable the Doshi appear. Ribtol and his kin give us a glance into a past way of life, especially domestic life, that hasn't so long ago also imprinted our Western culture, slavery and the 'buying' of women as chattel and breeders of strong warrior sons. Throughout the story, there is a surprising twist or chain of events at every turn of the page and the colourful battle scenes make for some fast-paced reading; details, such as the making of one's own arrows, or the application of protective body armour, sewn into the clothing, really bring the reader up close to Ribtol and his comrades.
The fate of the Doshi keeps the reader compelled to go on and the conclusion to their mighty battle against an enemy so fierce, yet hardly seen and full of unknown magic, the Ehvelen, is one that I had secretly hoped for. Anyone looking for a fast-paced action story with a brave young man who see himself as somewhat of a coward, mysterious beings that can talk to the trees and a journey into a colourful landscape, thousands of years past, will find 'The Making of a Forest Fighter' just the sort of refreshing new read that one hopes to find in a world full of cloned, plastic heroes who never sustain a scratch.
I enjoyed Ribtol's exploits and hope you will too.
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