Book Title: Forgotten Ruin: An Epic Military Fantasy Thriller, Book 1
Audiobook Narrator: Christopher Ryan Grant
Publication Date: March 1, 2021
Available On: Amazon as an eBook and as an Audible audiobook
Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
On a world very dissimilar from their own, Army Rangers have landed on a strange planet that seems like Earth, but also very different as well. Attacked by hordes of orcs, giants, goblins, ogres, and dragons for no reason they can discern, they fight for their lives, trying to survive another night. They fully recognize that there is also no going back to where they came from.
But when the most valuable piece of equipment they own is stolen from them, they set out to learn more about this forsaken land, try to find allies, and set about to recover their property. For these are Rangers, nothing will stand in the way of their goals. And they are meaner and tougher than whatever it is they find in the forgotten ruin.
Each battle they fight is intense, as they learn the new rules of fighting an unfamiliar enemy on their own turf and learning on the fly which weapons will be the most effective. As a reader, I was immediately brought into the trenches through the eyes of the inexperienced Ranger nicknamed “Talker.” Through him, I felt the heat of the weapon in my hands and the terrifying sights of an orc horde trying to murder me and my Ranger comrades. I also felt the evil of the creatures trying to kill all of us.
This in-person perspective was keenly felt as I was terrified at what was being described. However, the Rangers felt no such thing and Rangered hard against an implacable and relentless foe. They don’t let feelings getting in the way of the bodies stacking up in piles all over the battlefield. And they’re the reason why all those bodies became so lifeless.
With each confrontation, the Rangers continue to face new enemies and they are used to “embracing the suck” of whatever they encounter. However, they slowly realize that they must embrace the fantasy of this new land, no matter how unbelievable it might be. This becomes very apparent during each of these conflicts, especially the Battle for Ranger Alamo and the final confrontation at a spooky castle with a nasty nest of surprises waiting for them in the catacombs. The big boss of the finale will also be quite a surprise.
This land’s history is very intriguing, hinting at over ten thousand years of history in the making and how it transformed. Different factions of elves, dark lords, sorcerers, and enemies all slowly become known in bits and pieces. The rise of magic and the evolution of various species are also part of this history after civilization fell and new factions came to power. The enormity of this new world and the disappearance of everything the Rangers have ever known is staggering but the Rangers handle it with their usual aplomb and battle discipline.
This entire novel is told through the eyes of Private First Class (PFC) Walker, known as Talker to his fellow Rangers. Talker is a linguist who can speak eight languages and can work his way through many others. He also has no experience on the battlefield before now. You might be wondering why a linguist is needed on this special mission and what he’s doing in this task force. He’s wondering the same thing.
But as I read through the novel, I got to know him much better, understand why he’s there and how it happened. His worth is proven to the Rangers over time, both as a Ranger and as a linguist, demonstrating how he becomes an invaluable part of the team. His communication skills prove to come in very handy when it comes to navigating this new world and in talking with its residents. We also watch him evolve from a newbie to not only learning how to Ranger but embodying its core principles.
There’s plenty of other characters that readers get to know and they are all quite colorful, with nicknames to boot. People like Captain Knife Hand, Deep State, the Baroness, and Thor the sniper, to name just a few. Chief Petty Officer McCluskey the SEAL is very fascinating, for reasons the reader will ascertain. PFC Kennedy starts off as one of the most scorned soldiers in the eyes of the Rangers. But his general knowledge of the fantasy genre, such as Dungeons and Dragons, The Lord of the Rings, and more, eventually elevates his status. And wait until you see what he does with that knowledge!
We meet some of the residents of this realm as well. Last of Autumn is an intriguing addition to the cast. And Jabba the goblin starts off menacing but his role changes over the course of the story as well.
This novel is self-aware of the fantasy genre and its touchstones in popular culture. It never turns into self-parody, though for some authors, it could be a temptation to go in that direction. These authors are too good for that and utilized that knowledge in a reverential way that enriches the story. It’s a tribute to all that has come before. While recognizing the incredulousness of their situation, the Rangers general disbelief about this new world are subsumed into the struggle just to stay alive against all the new enemies they discover.
As a result, you come away from this novel admiring the tenacity of the Rangers and their lethal skills. Their indomitable will of winning at all costs, no matter what obstacles they face and no matter how low on ammunition they are, they always find a way. Their adaptability to their newfound circumstances is admirable and necessary.
This novel is the first of a continuing series of adventures for the Rangers and successfully accomplished its goal of creating a new playground where wonderous stories can be told. It had a lot of work to do, to set the groundwork for the entire series while also telling an excellent self-contained story.
It also establishes that there is much more to learn about this world and promises many future developments to be found as the story starts to evolve over the course of the series. There are hints at bigger bad guys out there, commanding the legions of enemies out to get them and a larger glimpse at the grand plan that seems to be at work in the background.
The narrator, Christopher Ryan Grant, was perfect for this novel. It successfully captures the different voices, the many characters to be found here, and the gritty determination of the Rangers. He also highly demonstrates the wonders, the evil and the darkness to be found here.
I’ve read many novels written by these authors. Each one has written wonderful stories on their own as individuals, which I’ve enjoyed. As co-authors, their complementary style elevates their combined storytelling prowess to the next level. I’ve read the stories they’ve written in their military sci-fi “Galaxy’s Edge” series and enjoyed those immensely. Now, they’ve successfully brought their prodigious skills to a story that blends both science fiction and fantasy genres.
The tagline for this novel is “Tolkien meets Shock and Awe”. I think it lives up to that description and then some. This is a spectacular blend of military sci-fi and fantasy genres into an unforgettable ruin of a new world. With each unpredictable twist and turn of the plot and I could never guess where the story would take me. My imagination was ignited by all that I found here. That also includes the inherent evil that hangs like a dark pall over all the lands of the Ruin. But there are amazing creatures, beautiful sights, and ethereal beauty to be found as well.
Machine guns versus magic. Anti-tank weapons versus giants. Bow and arrows versus armor plating. Night vision goggles versus invisible sorcerers. If you ever wondered how modern weapons would fare against magic wielders, evil creatures bent on conquering others, and hordes of mindless orcs, this is the novel for you. Enjoy your trip through the ruin but beware of what you might find there.
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Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews or audiobook reviews about Galaxy’s Edge stories co-authored by Jason Anspach and Nick Cole include “Legionnaire – Galaxy’s Edge, Book 1,” “Galaxy’s Edge: Madame Guillotine,” “Galaxy’s Edge – Takeover“, “Galaxy’s Edge – Requiem For Medusa“, “Iron Wolves – Order of the Centurion – Book 2“, co-authored with Jonathan Yanez and “The Reservist – Galaxy’s Edge: Order of the Centurion, Book 5“, co-authored with J.R. Handley.