Tor Books / 385 pages / (May 15, 2001)
Fantasy series that can be enjoyed by young adults and, well, adult adults are few and far between. Fewer still are the ones that are well done. With Animist, Forward launches a new trilogy that should please readers and critics of all ages. It is the creation of a land where magic exists, but is hard to come by — where peace and plenty is possible, but seemingly impossible to come by.
Meet Alex, young and talented graduate of the famed College of Animists. Alex is ready to set out on his journey in the world to find his Anim, the animal/familiar that will establish a deep, lifelong link with him. Together the pair will work, detecting magic and defending against it. His journey will take him back to the College though, because he is a slave and his talents are not his own to use. A fact that is never far from his mind.
Forward’s fictional world is a place that is not so very far from our own. Some of the animals are rather like those on Earth. Some of the land masses seem to be just over the horizon from a spot on our globe. Even some of the sentient species bear a striking resemblance to creatures you might find running around.
The chance to make responsive, responsible beings out of some of the animals we know adds a definite charm and magic of its own to the novel. Somehow, reading Animist, it’s almost impossible to keep the beloved dust mops of Jim Henson out of mind. The huge potential of the Rhodeni, the mystic wisdom of the Lemyri, and the fierce loyalty of the Therop General — these are characters and societies that will get more interesting and engaging with every instalment.
The choice of Alex as protagonist is an inspired one. As an animist, the boy has no showy pyrotechnical powers or demons to call up from the depths. His talents are of a more passive, defensive type. For now. What changes the future may hold for him is one of the hooks that will bring readers back for volumes two and three. The chance to watch an exceptional, but not invulnerable, boy grow and mature in this series is too good to pass up.
The humanoid characters in Animist are, as in reality, the most predictable. Whether the story takes place on Earth or in some land that never existed, the motivations remain the same. People being people, there will be conflict. Countries being countries there will be land disputes. The hostilities in the book lead to war and, naturally, some violent scenes; death is not “cleaned-up,” but neither does Forward linger on the gore and the suffering.
Visit a fascinating, new world. Meet some people and intelligent beings you’ll wish really existed and some who are just like the people who make your life miserable every day. Give yourself a break and spend some time in Forward’s world.