Representation: Black MC, major Black secondary characters
Published on: 23rd November 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Unknown to Humanity, the descendants of Fallen Angels live among us. After millennia of living in anonymity, a serial killer has discovered their secret and has marked them for death. FBI Agent Michael Childs is brought in to investigate a series of grisly murders in New York City. The only link between the victims is they were all born with twelve fingers and twelve toes, known in occult circles as the Nephilim, a forsaken people.
A break in the case leads to Marine Corps sniper Anaba Raines who is listed as killed in action in Syria. Michael finds the hardened soldier alive and well, but no longer Human. After getting too close to the truth, Michael refuses to be an unwitting pawn in a 3000-year old vendetta. With the killers closing in, he is forced to confront his own unique heritage or die. Only Anaba can save his life, but at a terrible cost – her freedom.
I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
~the natural enemy of the angel is the fiery demonhorse
~it’s not the forces of Hell you need to be worried about
~never piss off a Marine
~especially an ex-sniper Marine
~the spear. the magic spear. the spear only the chosen one may wield. the spear–
Forging a Nightmare was one of my most-anticipated reads of the year, but it is, to put it mildly, a trainwreck.
It starts out pretty strong – the prologue was a bit gruesome for me, but showcasing your serial killer in the prologue is pretty standard. Chapter one introduces Michael, our MC, who arrives at the crime scene in a full-on suit of armour after coming from jousting practice – cool hobby, I approve. I was a bit uneasy – the dialogue seemed very forced, the characters speaking in a way that didn’t feel natural so as to give the reader information we needed, but okay, it’s the first chapter, that kind of bump in the road isn’t too big a deal. But then the jump from chapter one to two left me dizzy – I thought at first my ARC might be missing a chapter, the transition was so sudden and apparently random, only explained later – and chapter three? Reveals the identity and motivations of the bad guys. From their POV, as well.
I mean…what? Cool, I now have almost no incentive to keep reading. And double-cool, the reason the bad guys aren’t going after Michael? Is Because Reasons. It’s literally ‘because I said so’ from the in-charge bad guy.
Yeah, that doesn’t fly with me. You’ve revealed the bad guys, and also the Big Secret behind Michael’s heritage (via Very Heavy Hint, one the reader can’t possibly miss) within the first 60 pages. I mean…what do I have to care about now?
It rapidly goes downhill from there. Angels attack Michael, but they’re basically just humans with wings – a take I hate wherever I find it. He’s saved by a very bad-tempered lady who shapeshifts into a demon horse (the eponymous Nightmare), because apparently demon horses are designed to kill angels. Then Michael is whisked away to a church, where the priest there reveals that a) the priest is an angel, b) Michael’s a Nephilim (which we already knew, see the Heavy Hint from earlier) c) not only is Michael a Nephilim, he’s some kind of Nephilim Chosen One, and d) not only is Michael a Nephilim, his dad is the Archangel Michael.
Because of course he is.
I probably would have had an easier time with all this if Nephilim!Michael had had a less easy time with it – he asks almost no questions, doesn’t seem to have any trouble believing all of this, and is totally fine with being told he needs to take a trip to Hell immediately to find a weapon capable of fighting off the Bad Angels. Literally his only response is ‘give me a sec, I’ll grab my jousting gear from the car’. Um??? Why do you not have a gazillion questions (like why the angel Michael, the angel priest, and/or, you know, GOD, can’t handle the Bad Angels themselves)? Why do you not need convincing? Why aren’t you freaking out?
Why are you taking your practice sword – which is presumably blunt, since it’s a practice sword – to Hell? I DON’T THINK BLUNT OBJECTS WILL GET YOU VERY FAR, MICHAEL. Except that they do, because – despite it being repeatedly referred to as a practice sword, underscoring the idea that it must be blunt – Reasons, I guess. I know a fair bit about Ren Faires and looked it up just to be certain, and no, those kinds of swords should not be sharp. They’re called ‘stage combat swords’, meant specifically for things like LARPing and Ren Faire displays and movie fight scenes – and they’re blunt. As in, they will definitely not take a demon’s head off.
Don’t even get me started on the trip to Hell and the completely random pronouncement that Michael is now the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse. At that point, I couldn’t take it any more and called it.
THIS IS ALL IN ONE DAY, BTW. Which makes it even worse. I get the appeal of a plot that keeps moving, but there are so many revelations here that it’s just unbelievable that Michael gets no time for introspection or questioning; nor is there any time for the reader to make sense of anything before the book leaps to the next thing.
The dialogue is a disaster – cringey action-movie lines combined with everyone using everyone else’s name all the time, despite the fact that no one addresses their conversation partner by name more than once (at most). So, so much telling instead of showing – quite a few times it graduated from telling to full-on lecturing the reader. Lectures that tell us facts but don’t explain them, which are the worst kind.
I can’t swear that the book doesn’t improve immensely after the first third of the story, of course, but I seriously doubt it. I do think there might be some appeal here for urban fantasy fans who like fast-paced books that don’t make the reader work too hard – especially if you want something different from the usual werewolves and vampires. But personally, I hated it.