My interests when it comes to reading fiction, like many, took a meandering path through my formative years. Thanks to Star Wars—yes, that was the name of the movie when it came out, none of this retcon naming nonsense—on the big screen when I was six, science fiction was an early staple of my childhood reading. When I was in seventh grade, I came down with chicken pox. Looking forward to a couple of weeks home from school, I sat in the car while my mother went into the school to talk with the front office about getting assignments from my teachers. Then, and God bless her for this amongst so much more, Mom went down the hall to the library, to get me a couple of books. After a discussion with the librarian about what I liked, she came back out with a set of books that changed my life in many ways: Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings.
When I was 15, my dad brought home a paperback from a debut novelist: Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October. Like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings before it, this was another pivotal moment in expanding my reading horizon. These three still remain to this day: science fiction, fantasy, and thrillers. Oh, and did I mention that thanks to Tolkien and being at a middle school full of other nerds, I started playing Dungeons & Dragons? Well now I have.
So when a novel comes along that combines two of these elements, the military thriller, with fantasy/D&D, and does so very, very well, it is a no-brainer that I am going to love it. And such is the case with Forgotten Ruin.
Take a crack Army unit, throw them a few thousand years into our future, into a Europe disfigured and rearranged by a cataclysmic event which led to the very rearranging of DNA amongst the populace, so that races previously thought of as only fantasy, elves and orcs, are now a reality, and have these Rangers deal with it. Authors Jason Anspach and Nick Cole bill it as “Tolkien meets Shock and Awe.” They have crafted a real gem from a firecracker of an idea, and the execution is flawless from start to finish.
The story is told through Talker, a Ranger-come-lately. Talker is called Talker by the other Rangers because he’s a translator, speaks lots of languages, and not knowing exactly what situation the spec ops units being sent forward in time might encounter, the higher-ups figured it might be good to have some folks attached who can help out in case our heroes end up in a non-English-speaking realm. What the higher-ups don’t account for, as we learn from Talker, is just how far in the future they end up.
Ever wonder what the Battle of Helm’s Deep might have been like if Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Théoden, and the Rohirrim had machine guns to use against Saruman’s horde? You’ll get a taste of that and more in Forgotten Ruin. And what about the other units that went through, what happened to them? Talker and his Ranger buddies learn some lessons about them the hard way and seek not to repeat others.
The world Anspach and Cole have created, that of a modern military unit being cast into a medieval-style past/future/alternate reality, is nothing new under the sun, but their choices and execution of same render this nothing short of a masterpiece in the space. Is that too gushing of a sentiment? Tough. I told you at the outset I could not be impartial with this one.
Simply put: if you love military thrillers, if you love sword-and-sorcery fantasy, you will love Forgotten Ruin. Grab yourself a copy, Ranger Up with Talker and the gang, remember to Be Meaner Than It, and enjoy a great read.