The Far Forest Scrolls trilogy earns our NYT Fantasy Best Loved Award!
Get ready for a riveting journey through mystical lands filled with Knights, dragons, sweeping battles, treachery, otherworldly creatures and magic. This timeless and epic tale pulls you in and wrenches you though a roller coaster of emotions as friendship, courage, life and hope clash with betrayal, wrath, death and despair. We are lucky this long lost tale was discovered in our lifetime!
We are grateful!
All of us here at NYT Fantasy Books feel blessed to have stumbled upon Hunter Ross and his extraordinary discovery in the Far Forest region of England. We were ecstatic and honored to be the first ones to review the tale contained within the Far Forest Scrolls.
Why you should read this trilogy:
This timeless story is truly an epic tale! We know the word “epic” is thrown around WAY too much. However, the Far Forest Scrolls truly live up to the title. The trilogy is action-packed with complex, yet relatable, characters flowing through magical lands filled with extraordinary creatures.
The staff at NYT Fantasy Books usually complains that books are too predictable. In most stories you clearly have “good” and “evil” separated into two distinct groups. You usually know who is going to “win” and who will “lose.” This trilogy will leave you questioning who is the hero and who is the antagonist.
With other stories it is usually obvious that most, if not all, of the “good guys” will survive until the end of the book. No worries about any of that in the Far Forest Scrolls. This ancient trilogy certainly bucks the trend of predictability. Even major characters are not immune from death. We loved this feature of the stories; it adds a volatile edge to the trilogy. When there is a dangerous scene, you can’t be sure who will make it out alive.
What you (especially parents) need to know:
Although some of the main characters are children, these books are appropriate for an older audience due to battle violence and complex themes. This series is probably best for teens and up (parents would want to preview the violence contained within the books to see what they think about the trilogy for their child). There is zero promiscuity, no tobacco use, a minuscule amount of adult drinking and no foul language.
The mysterious author of this trilogy, A4, writes deliberately with lots of underlying messages and themes. The pace of the trilogy is varied, with each book having a distinct and unique milieu. Despite a large number of supporting characters flowing through the stories, you never feel lost with a stable cadre of main characters to anchor the narrative.
My oldest son, Nox, became fascinated with the elaborate underlying themes of this trilogy. There is an amazing amount of history and philosophy hidden within the writing and characters. Also, the etymology is so vast it is mind blowing. Once Nox started delving into the story he was amazed at what he found. In fact, he started his own website (https://hiddenfarforestscrolls.blogspot.com/) with details of the so called, “story behind the story.” We would like to thank Professor RC Novotny for not only translating these scrolls and organizing them into a trilogy, but for his help with Nox’s project. His linguistic and worldly knowledge were invaluable.
Depending on how much information you want, we divided the review for each of the books into three sections: Key Points, Highlights, and Detailed Review.
Review of: Book One: Dragon Battle
*We meet the main characters and get an overview of the different citizens of Verngaurd.
*We experience the Tournament of Flags.
*There is a whisper introducing the idea of the prophecy and the Chosen One.
Highlights: Book One introduces us to the Knights and squires and allows us a glimpse of their lives while investing us in the characters and their distinct personalities. Sprinkled generously throughout the first book are moments foreshadowing the death to come. A fantastical medieval “olympics,” the Tournament of Flags, is rousing and entertaining. The deep conflicts dividing the various nations of Verngaurd are revealed.
Book One: Dragon Battle
The trilogy opens with the mysterious death of the parents of three young siblings. The recently orphaned children will go on to become the main characters of the story: Bellae and her twin siblings: Gimelli and Jumeaux (you will have to wait until the very end of Book Three to discover what really happened to their parents and why)!
The three children go on to become squires to a vanishing breed of warriors, the Knights. As the story begins the Knights have lost an enormous amount of power and prestige at the hands of their enemies, the Dark Warriors, and their former allies, the Proliate. The world seems on the edge of a steep, self-destructive, cliff. Only an ancient prophecy seems to offer any hope for the future.
Book one serves as an introduction to the diverse inhabitants of Verngaurd, with a special focus on the Knights, the squires, and their way of life. We learn of Bellae’s unique gift, communicating with animals, and see how it has alienated her from many of the other squires. Her best friend is fellow outcast, Lontas. He is a squire who loves to read more than breathe. The opposite personalities of Bellae’s twin siblings are also revealed. Jumeaux, makes up for his physical weakness and insecurity by spreading out anger and sarcasm like dysfunctional peacock feathers. Gimelli is kind and full of life, spreading her sunny disposition wherever she travels.
Just when we start to get comfortable with their lives behind the strong walls of the Knight’s Castle Liberum, the three siblings head out with a small band of Knights and other squires to the Tournament of Flags. Along the way the true horrors happening in the countryside are recognized. However, the tournament itself is full of pageantry and awesome martial competitions.
Throughout the book we learn of the evil forces stirring within the world of Verngaurd. Someone, or something, is tearing apart the countries of Verngaurd from within by getting them to bicker and fight amongst themselves (again, you have to wait until the end to find out what is really going on).
One of the main characters loses their life during the Tournament. This tragedy seems to bring Verngaurd together. However, catastrophe strikes, and Book One ends with a cliffhanger.
Review of: Book Two: Battle of Trepas
*The first step in the ancient prophecy, and the identity of the Chosen One, are revealed.
*Massive battles abound as Verngaurd falls into a self-destructive Civil War.
Highlights: Lots of battles fill the pages of Book Two as Verngaurd starts to implode. The leaders let themselves get caught up in hatred and revenge, which blinds them to the manipulation shaping their actions. That said, we really get to know the various countries of Verngaurd and you find yourself liking them all. There is even more character development and we finally have our band of heroes (the League of Truth). These young champions set out on their quest to save the world by finding the source of all magic, the Macht or Power Crystals.
Book Two: Battle of Trepas
The book opens with the unveiling of what happened at the end of Book One-a massacre of innocents. The Elves of Creber and Northern Dwarves claim the Dark Warriors and their leader, the evil White Wizard, framed them for the slaughter. However, the other inhabitants of Verngaurd do not believe their story and we see old tensions flaring and the makings of a civil war heating up.
Perhaps one of our favorite parts of the trilogy is being immersed in the world of the Elves of Creber and their beloved forest. However, the calm is short lived. The squires are separated from the Knights and scattered around Verngaurd while absolutely ferocious and blood splattering battles rage across the land. On one side are the Allies; they are led by the Knights, Elves of Creber and Northern Dwarves with their dragons. The devout Proliate lead the Confederacy.
Outnumbered around two to one, Friar Pallium, leader of the Knights, resorts to deception in order to even out the odds for the Allies. The result is a series of brutal clashes. If you are a fan of blood and guts, you will really enjoy Book Two. There are some innovative battle scenes, but the reader will be left questioning the value and cost of the Knight’s underhanded techniques. I think the author plays both sides of the argument well (the argument of whether it was all right for the Knights to resort to deception or not). Friar even gives a speech about his motivation and reasoning for using the strategies he did.
While the battles are a focal point, there is plenty of excitement and humor on the squire front. As a fan of philosophy, I enjoyed the scene when Bellae met up with the blue Kirvella dragons. The squires walk in to find the blue dragons embroiled in a passionate discussion of Plato and some of his work.
We also get to learn more about the Proliate and discover they are not mindless brutes. There is a hilarious scene with one of the squires and a princess from the northern country of Jaa!
Another highlight is meeting the Fairies and Sprites from the magical world of Cappadocia. We learn the identity of the Chosen One who will fulfill the prophecy and rid the world of evil. The group of companions who will assist the Chosen One is clarified. They are collectively known as the League of Truth and they finally discover their mission, to collect five pairs of magic Power Crystals, the Macht Crystals, and save the world. The quest begins just as Book Two comes to a close.
Review of: Book Three: The Quest
*The League of Truth’s quest to solve the riddles guarding the source of magic (the Macht or Power Crystals) dominates this book.
*Battles continue up until the very end when we finally discover what the prophecy was talking about.
Highlights: Book Three is mainly about the quest for the five pairs of Power Crystals. To acquire each set of crystals the League of Truth must solve riddles, overcome traps, and face strange guardians. Verngaurd is on the verge of complete implosion as their civil war has shredded their armies, and hence their ability to fight off the evil White Wizard and his hordes of Dark Warriors. All the frayed and unanswered threads that have been itching your brain throughout the trilogy are finally tied up as the shocking mysteries are revealed.
Book Three: The Quest
Book Three has a quick pace with lots of fresh scenery as the League of Truth journeys on their quest to solve the prophecy. The quest was my personal favorite of the three books.
The Chosen One and the League of Truth find themselves in big trouble on their first adventure to uncover the source of magic, the Power Crystals. They are disorientated and wandering in the brutally hot Desert of Calor with death hovering nearby. Book Three is dominated by the superb quest for the Power Crystals (or Macht Crystals). To acquire each pair of crystals they must solve a series of riddles, overcome obstacles, and face fascinating creatures known as the Guardians.
The poems and rhymes protecting the Power Crystals are well written and riveting. Each one has a specific theme and two opposing forces. The “Seeing” Crystals have challenges involving perception and deception. The others include: the Strength Crystals (power and weakness), the Time Crystals (life and death), Sacrifice Crystals (love and hate), and the Wisdom Crystals (knowledge and ignorance).
The odyssey for the crystals is made that much more difficult as all of Verngaurd is embroiled in a massive and catastrophic series of battles. I don’t want to give too much away, but major familiar places and characters will fall. Our first glimpse of Ifrean and a deeper understanding of the motivation of the Dark Warriors is outlined. I think one of the powerful elements of this trilogy is how the author makes a point to have the reader get to know the different countries, its people and culture, and the underlying motivation for their actions (i.e. you get a chance to “walk in their shoes” so to speak). Once you find out more about each country and its back-story it becomes increasingly harder to apply generic labels like “good guys” or “bad guys.”
The ending caught even this grizzled reader by surprise. Those responsible for manipulating both Verngaurd and Ifrean are revealed and there are two powerful ending scenes. The final “showdown” is full of bombshells and I honestly had no idea what they were going to do with the Power Crystals at the end. To give details would be to spoil it.
So take the plunge! Enjoy the mystical ride through the Far Forest Scrolls.
We are proud to bestow the Far Forest Scrolls with a NYT Fantasy Best Loved Award!
All images used with direct permission from Hunter Ross and the Far Forest Scrolls website. farforestscrolls.com/home