The Dark Forest follows three young adventurers, Roki, Dax, and Leena, as they travel into the woods on a quest to eradicate some nasty goblin bandits. The three friends have been training together for some time and are ready to prove their mettle. Only, the job they’ve accepted takes them farther into the forest than they have ever gone before, and the three friends find themselves facing an enemy more dangerous than they expected.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read such a straight-up, action-packed, sword-and-sorcery fantasy. The Dark Forest earned some points for nostalgia, as reading this book actually made me feel like I was playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons! There isn’t a lot of world-building or a large cast of characters, so if you’re looking for a dense, epic tale with complex characters, this might not be for you. The Dark Forest is an all-ages quest story, featuring the fundamental fantasy characters we all know and love (swordsmen, archer) and the classic trappings (goblins, magic, friendship, adventure, with a touch of romance). It stays within those confines and knows them well. Some of the fight scenes did feel as if they went on too long. Not so much in the beginning, but as the book progressed there were more of them (more often). With such long scenes it actually made the action feel like it was dragging, making me crave more story and less action. Condensing a few of them would help with the flow. There were some redundancies and telling-versus-showing, both of which are easy fixes. They were noticeable but didn’t really detract from the overall read or my enjoyment of the book. The Dark Forest struck a chord in that it reminded me of when I first discovered sword-and-sorcery books (many years ago), and how I would devour them in one sitting. Its ability to bring me back to earlier days is noteworthy.
If you enjoy Dungeons & Dragons, if you’re yearning for a clear-cut, traditional sword-and-sorcery tale with archetypal characters embarking on a perilous quest—you’ll want to give this one a try.