Forged By Fire - Janine Cross A warning: If you're looking for some escapist fare a la a Pratchett novel, these 3 volumes are definitely not for you. Zarq's world is viciously misanthropic/misogynistic and our protagonist suffers degradation, rape and genital mutilation among other tortures before she succeeds in throwing off the tyranny of the Dragon Temple.

I think Cross is a pretty good writer with potential. The difficulty I have with giving this trilogy 3 stars is two-fold. One, I think she overplays the humiliation the character suffers; Zarq is constantly falling into a horrid situation, enduring it, only to fall into another horrid situation. In isolation each of these set pieces is well written but, strung together, they are "overkill."

Two, as often happens, the ending comes much too quickly, and depends upon the usual trope of a prophesied messiah figure saving the good guys. It is, admittedly, a personal bias but I've grown to dislike fiction where "fate" actually does rule the world and the good guys can't lose. On the plus side in Cross's world, however, the "good guys" aren't really that "good," and Zarq clearly recognizes when all is said and done that she's not living in a Utopia where evil, injustice, etc., have been eliminated.