Gods of the Wyrdwood (Orbit, June 27, 2023). Cover design by Duncan Spilling
RJ Barker is the author of The Wounded Kingdom trilogy (Age of Assassins, Blood of Assassins, and King of Assassins), and The Tide Child trilogy (The Bone Ships, Call of the Bone Ships, and The Bone Ship’s Wake). His newest novel Gods of the Wyrdwood, published by Orbit last month, kicks off — you guessed it — a new series, The Forsaken Trilogy.
I’m intrigued by this one because it seems very different from many of the fantasy novels cluttering the shelves. Paste Magazine calls it “A unique spin on the traditional Chosen One trope… one doesn’t turn out anything like you expect.”
[Click the images for godlike versions.]
The Bone Ship Trilogy (Orbit, 2019-2021). Covers by Edward Bettison
The Fantasy Review has much the same take.
Cahan grew up thinking he was the Chosen One, a powerful magic user who could pull the world out of its perpetual winter. However, another Chosen One instead assumed the role as “Cowl-Rai”, and thus Cahan has spent most of his life running away from his powers and past identity, desiring to live alone at the edge of the forest. Throw in a spunky undead sidekick for some comic relief, a new emergent Chosen One coming of age story, and a mother conflicted about what is best for her son and what is best for the nation, and you’ve got the basic outline of Barker’s book…
Because the book is so episodic in nature, this overarching plot often recedes into the background. It constantly emerges to the surface, only to recede once again as Cahan and co. get involved in subplots and side quests that build out the world nicely… Barker loves to build worlds that just feel “off”, that resemble our world enough to feel comfortable but also alien, different, and unsettling. Barker populates the continent of Crua with strange creatures, dark forests, nebulous deities, magical trees, and more. This gives the world of Wyrdwood an excitingly weird ecology, one that you cannot help but to want to explore more deeply.
In fact, my favorite section of the entire book is when our protagonists are forced to venture into the dark and dangerous Wyrdwood. There they are forced to confront all kinds of dangers – human and otherwise – and Barker’s true creative strengths are brought to their full potential…
Anchored by a mysterious forest that you cannot help want to explore with the characters, Gods of the Wyrdwood is an exciting start to a brand new trilogy. RJ Barker brings the same level of magnificent worlds, characters, and prose from his Tide Child Trilogy and crafts a unique story about a man raised to be the Chosen One, but then was unceremoniously dumped and replaced. It is a story about finding a new place in the world… it completely hooked me.
We discussed the first two books in The Tide Child trilogy back in 2021.
Gods of the Wyrdwood was published by Orbit Books on June 27, 2023. It is 628 pages, priced at $18.99 in trade paperback and $10.99 in digital formats. The cover design by Duncan Spilling.
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