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I'm a seminary student and a budding author. I live in the Twin Cities. I work with refugees, helping them learn English, ride the bus, and figure out what America is all about. I eat stuff I find out in the woods. I also have two cats.
A Book Vacation
on July 08, 2012 :
This story had a very interesting concept, but I personally found it a bit slow and hard to follow. There are many characters introduced throughout the novel, and I had a hard time keeping them all straight, especially the more minor ones. Likewise, the plot tended to shift around a bit, from a huge, epic battle where Nara-Ya shows her true colors, to months of the characters sitting around doing nothing but waiting. And so, the pacing would speed up and slow down constantly, which was difficult for me, since I’m one of those readers that likes the pacing to be the same throughout a novel. However, Donovan and Nara-Ya were very interesting characters, and I feel like they were fleshed out very well throughout the story. They are total opposites, and Forde did a phenomenal job creating them. I liked them very much when they were together, and following their budding relationship over the many years within the novel was nice. I would have liked even more information about them and their love life, which, in my opinion, was all too short, but is indeed the makings of a good sequel.
This novel deals a lot with political uprisings, war, love, redemption, and of course, there are some paranormal/sci-fi elements as well, such as a unicorn and the like, so I think that readers who enjoy books of this caliber will really enjoy it.
(reviewed long after purchase)
on Nov. 06, 2011 :
“Lastborn” starts with a scene so horrific you question the goodness in humanity. The first chapter pulled me into the novel. The character in this scene yanked me into his dark place filling me with huge amounts of sympathy for him. This character made me read the book. The other main character fell short for me. She could have been drawn out more. Often, at emotional times within the book, she felt stiff. This could have been due to a large part of telling rather than showing. For example, if a character is angry, don’t tell me – show me. Allow me to feel her anger bubbling up inside her and then, what does she do with it? Showing emotion also builds characters. For example, when I was a kid, I always knew when my mother was angry. Her lips would tighten, her eyes got this weird wide stare, and she may even let a word like ‘damn’ fly. You should know my mother almost never cussed. My point is something like this could have built the character of Nara-Ya into a fully fleshed being. Mom, with a switch in hand, could have been a little less fleshy.
The two main characters together made an interesting dynamic set-up. This is an old Shakespearean trick, throwing two opposite characters together in the same scene to make a dynamic contrast. Look at Juliet’s nurse and her mother or look at Hamlet and Laertes. In the end, for this trick to work, both players have to struggle between what they think is right, and what they think is wrong, then act or fail to act because of it. The main character of Nara-Ya failed to struggle in the same way as Donavan. She failed to act on her own accord. An interesting character that can be compared to Nara-Ya, but did show the struggle within her self was Suzanne Collin’s Katniss in “The Hunger Games.” Katnis had a big choice to make and when she made her choice it was powerful, because she made it. Nara-Ya never made any choices she wasn’t pushed into, but Donavan did and it made him a stronger character.
Character believability should be must in a story. However, even though the character of Nara-Ya didn’t work for me, the setting and plot did. The setting changed from urban to rural contrasting the different worlds of Nara-Ya and Donavan. It enhanced their characters, but really highlighted Donavan because it showed the place he was born out of contrasting the setting that shaped him later. “Last Born” has simple plot with themes of hope, and love examining humanity’s true nature. Perhaps, at times the change in setting, the swarm of secondary characters was a bit overwhelming, but Forde created two different worlds for two different people. Some of the secondary characters seemed unnecessary, but I stayed focused on the simple plot – a universal message, which promoted a non-violent means of problem solving. That, along with Donavan makes the book worth reading however be aware the pacing is slow. It took me a long time to read it.
Slow pacing could be due to three factors, one, the characters often waited on things to happen, and in those periods the plot dragged. A second reason could be due to passive writing. When action presents itself at the beginning of a sentence, the reader is propelled into the writer’s world. The last reason could be the lack of subplots. Some of the secondary characters were interesting, and some of their problems were hinted upon, but never flowered into a real subplot. The character of the mythical unicorn seemed misplaced without more of an elaborate story line that wasn’t told from another character’s perspective. He could have been interesting if shown in a stronger light.
I would recommend this book simply because of Forde’s universal message of passive-aggressive problem solving, even though this way is sometimes unrealistic, it is still noble. The character of Donavan is worth getting to know and the ending made for a dynamic exit, if not heartbreaking one. I should say no more, thus give her ending away. And sometimes in the end, the ending is your final choice in deciding whether the book was worth reading. If that is the case, “Lastborn” is worth reading.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Ron C. Nieto
on Oct. 30, 2011 :
You know when you go into a book expecting something good and somehow the result turns out to be just plain amazing? That’s what happened with Lastborn: the blurb was promising, but the book? It blew me away!
First off, I loved the main characters, and I think you’ll like them too. They are well developed, in that we can see the way they change as a consequence of their actions, and how their actions depend on where they are mentally at the moment – they are coherent in their progression, and it’s a progression that’s fully justified by the plot. Because of this, it was too easy to put myself in their place, to sympathize with them, to understand them. Just this aspect would be enough to score a major point with me, because I don’t love anything quite as much as inner logic, but there was more: they were unique. Nara-ya was a mystery wrapped in a bit of an enigma, and I became invested in her self-discovery journey from the beginning, but the revelation was Donovan. I mean it, because, how many pacifist heroes have you read about?
Not the kind where scruples keep them from acting in the critical moment, so that there might be a proper climax later one, but real, deeply convinced, well-founded pacifists. The kind who will take a beating and still refuse to take up arms against their aggressor. I know I couldn’t name any single character fitting those terms, and that’s the reason I loved Donovan so much. Not only he was good: he believed in good, in non-violence... and he had his beliefs shaken in a harsh, violent world. He didn’t live in a sheltered, rose-colored world: he knew the price for his actions was steep, and he wasn’t always even sure about following the right path... and in the end... Well, in the end, after his trials, he’s still unique and real.
Those trials he faced were another strong suit for the book. They are fairly well summarized in the blurb, but even then I was unprepared for the depth and detail of this fantasy world built in a semblance of the Industrial Revolution, with hunger and fear and oppression as mighty an enemy as the sorceress queen herself. I think this shift from the classical medieval setting was very clever, and extremely well done: there are fantastic creatures, yes, and there’s magic, yes, but mostly there’s humans, who are both good and evil, who defend different views in a moment where change’s in the air.
The deviousness of the political side, the struggles of the Resistance... completely sucked me into the setting.
But of course, that’s not nearly all there’s to it. While life is anything but easy in the civilized lands, and their shaky peace with the wild Makeda (the northern country, reminiscent of a native american tribe system) seems to be just one step from crumbling... The real worry comes from the sorcerer queen herself, her slaver kingdom, and the lengths she’s willing to go to in order to... what? Expand her borders? Find more slaves? Hunt something in particular?
I didn’t know, and I confess that I could never tell until that point where events start spiralling and pieces start falling into place... and then I saw the big picture, and it wasn’t what I thought it would be! I had only seen one small part of the whole, and by the time realization hit I very nearly screamed, “no! it can’t be!” Mostly, because I checked how much book was left and I thought, “it can’t end like this”.
Good news? It doesn’t. There’s a crazy climax that will leave you reeling, and somehow it’ll all make sense before it’s over.
Even better news? That does not mean that there’s no room for a sequel. A sequel I’m very much looking forward.
I guess the bad part is that now I’ve got this great world alive in my head, all this characters chattering away and begging to tell me how their travels end –and begin-, but that I’ve to wait.
Still, I will wait. Because it’s so worth it. Meanwhile, I think you should read Lastborn.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on Oct. 29, 2011 :
The book, Lastborn, chronicles the lives of two very different people: Black Wolf (aka Donovan Banning) who strongly believes in both justice and non-violent protest, and Nara-Ya (aka Ayuma), a young woman whose murderous temper provokes her into acts of cold-blooded aggression. In a very complex series of events, these two meet and band together to save their land from an evil witch and a despotic king.
The writing in Lastborn is some of the best I've seen in an indie novel. Not only is the language very smooth, but the descriptions are wonderful and detailed. Not detailed as in endlessly long, but detailed as in precise. Forde excels at painting pictures in the reader's mind. I also appreciated the characters of Black Wolf and Nara-Ya. They are complex individuals who are each trying in their own ways to right injustices. I loved how they grew as individuals and as a pair.
Unfortunately, there were a quite a few things that I didn't like as well. The biggest issue I had was with the book itself. I couldn't tell what it was. When it began, it seemed like a story of indigenous people fighting against colonists. Then a unicorn showed up. Then the story shifted yet again to an urban setting in which Donovan was struggling to unionize workers from the iron works, giving things a quasi-steampunk feel. Finally, midway through the novel, the native peoples theme came back into play. These diverse sub-genres did not make for a good mix. A steampunk unicorn might be a unique story element, but that doesn't mean it's a good one.
The book also contained so many different peoples, countries, villains, and secondary characters that it was very difficult to keep everyone straight. Admittedly, this was written as an epic novel; however,there was only one major plot. Without significant subplots, all those characters were superfluous. The pacing was also very slow. Months would pass with the characters doing nothing but waiting.
Lastborn has potential. I'd love to see the author edit it by tightening up the plot, losing a number of minor characters, and focusing on one sub-genre. Although I didn't care for this book, I do think that the author's talent shows.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)