Review by Joel Kreissman
Forlorn, by Aaron B. is yet another dragon/dragonslayer romance story. Though I must admit I haven’t seen too many male/male stories of that particular subgenre. We start with a prologue showing our protagonist’s father in battle with a nine-foot tall anthropomorphic dragon, thus establishing the sort of legacy Tyler Brant has to live up to before he’s even introduced. The next chapter picks up twenty years later when Tyler has just been knighted, and seeking to prove himself; he’s dispatched almost immediately to investigate rumors of a dragon. However, the dragon he finds, Orpheus, turns out to be utterly disinterested in ravaging the countryside. Instead, Tyler and Orpheus have a somewhat civil conversation, which leads to something further…
Meanwhile, a corrupt knight back in the kingdom thinks he might make a better ruler than the current queen.
The setting seems based on a standard Medieval European Fantasy world with some more fairy tale elements. It’s populated by a blend of humans and fantasy creatures ranging in anthropomorphism from talking wolves to bird-man griffins, not particularly consistent. Whether it’s intended to be the “real world” sometime in the past or an alternate universe is unclear. There are a couple references to real world places, such as “European dragon,” “Russian symphony,” and “Molotov cocktail,” but given those would be anachronistic to the time period I could assume they were translation conventions for similar things in their world. On the other hand the few references to religion mention “gods” instead of “God”. I will give Aaron B. props for writing no taboo about homosexuality; too many fantasy authors seem to assume that a setting without Abrahamic religion would also make sodomy a capital offense. In this book nobody makes a fuss when Tyler asks out another knight early on; he just gets let down lightly.
I found the first half of the book rather slow; then at the halfway point it picks up speed and races to the climax, which is resolved by the 80% point. After that we just get a slow denouement and Orpheus’ journal, which reveals his previously hinted at backstory as a cursed human. Moving the part where Tyler finds Orpheus’ journal earlier into the story might have helped with the book’s pacing issues, instead tacking it onto the end just feels like padding. Or Tyler could have read a little bit more of the journal each time he went to visit Orpheus, stringing the reader along with gradual revelations.
In all, Forlorn has potential, but I feel Aaron B. published it too quickly. I’d like to read it again after a few more passes with an editor.