Publisher: Gollancz (Audiobook – 3 November 2022)
Series: The Legacy of the Mercenary King – Book Three
Length: 19 hour and 47 minutes
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
One of the very last books I read in 2022 might be one of the very best: the latest epic novel from Nick Martell, The Voyage of the Forgotten, which showcases just how much of an impressive, rising talent this outstanding author truly is.
Since 2020, one of my absolute favourite new fantasy authors has been the very, very talented Nick Martell, who burst into the scene in a big way with his elaborate and compelling The Legacy of the Mercenary King trilogy. This series started with The Kingdom of Liars, an exceptional book that introduced Martell’s intriguing fantasy world and distinctive protagonist Michael Kingman. The scion of a formerly great family whose patriarch was executed for a murder he didn’t commit, Michael spent most of The Kingdom of Liars trying to prove his father’s innocence while also finding himself dragged into various conspiracies infecting his home city of Hollow. I had an amazing time reading The Kingdom of Liars, and it ended up being one of my favourite books, audiobooks and debuts of 2020. Martell expertly followed his first novel up a year later with the equally incredible The Two-Faced Queen, which continued many of the fantastic story threads from the first book. However, the stakes were raised even further with the protagonist forced to deal with immortals, dragons, assassins, serial killers and more, all while trying to stop the woman he loves from killing him. This was another exceptional read, and The Two-Faced Queen was easily one of the best books and audiobooks of 2021. Naturally, there was no way that I would not read the third and final book in the series as soon as I could. This third book, The Voyage of the Forgotten, was one of my most anticipated reads of 2022, and I eagerly dove into it just before the year came to a close.
After proving his father’s innocence and restoring his family’s place in Hollow society, Michael Kingman should be happy. However, the closer he comes to victory, the more tragedy and defeat he suffers. Not only is the love of his life, Serena, the queen of Hollow, engaged to a merchant prince with his own elaborate agenda, but dangerous conspiracies centred on Michael seem to emerge from around every corner. His sister is enslaved to an immortal Wolven King who seeks war with his soon to be freed brothers, while his mercenary mentor, Dark, is becoming one of the most dangerous creatures in existence, using his stolen dragon magic to wreak havoc and destruction in the name of love. However, his true enemy remains Angelo Shade, Dark’s father, who seeks to bring back his dead wife and will burn the world, and everything Michael loves, to achieve it.
Thrust once again into this deadly battle of forces outside his league or ability to comprehend, Michael only has his wits, his barely trained magic ability, and a few dedicated friends to fight against the immortal schemers who have spent years bringing their elaborate plans to fruition. However, Michael is well used to being outclassed and underestimated by everyone he goes up against, and he resolves once again to make everyone pay to keep those he loves safe from harm.
Gathering his allies, Michael embarks on a foolish quest to fully understand all the world’s secrets that have long been hidden from him and ensure that he has the weapons to survive. But his course of action will put him at odds with the deadly mercenaries of Regal Company, all three of the ancient Wolven Kings, and even his own mercenary company. Defeating all of them seems impossible, but that has never stopped him from trying before. Can even the legendary stubborn Michael Kingman succeed and achieve his goals of becoming a Mercenary King when fate itself seems set against him? And even if he succeeds, is he willing to pay the terrible price that victory demands?
Wow oh wow, what an epic book. Nick Martell continues to deeply impress me with his captivating story writing ability as he brings this trilogy to a powerful and momentous end that I was instantly addicted to. The Voyage of the Forgotten was a truly exceptional read, loaded with amazing characters, elaborate fantasy lore and an intense story that refused to drop my attention. I can find no higher praise for this book than the fact that I named it one of my favourite books of 2022 well before I had even finished it; the first half was that damn good.
Martell has come up with a pretty epic narrative for The Voyage of the Forgotten, and it is one that I will not forget in a hurry. However, the first thing that I need to say about the story is: if you haven’t read the first two The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings novels, go back and start at the beginning. Martell has loaded the entire series with a ton of intricate and interesting lore, and he starts rapid firing back to the events of the last two books extremely early on in the story. While there is a useful Dramatis Personae, as well as a fun summary of previous events from one of the side characters, which helped to refresh my memory, if you haven’t read the previous books you will get lost very quickly when trying to read The Voyage of the Forgotten. The narrator is constantly making references to previous events, revelations, or characters who only appeared in the prior books, and it can get a little confusing if you don’t know what he is talking about. As such, I would strongly recommend reading (or re-reading) The Kingdom of Liars and The Two-Faced Queen in advance, which is a very small chore considering how amazing they are.
Now, if you’re up to speed on the prior books, you are in for a real treat when it comes to The Voyage of the Forgotten’s story. Told mainly from the perspective of protagonist and calamity-magnet Michael Kingman, Martell weaves together an intriguing, action-packed and character-driven conclusion to the elaborate story he set up in the first two books, which also leaves a lot of room for the larger series to grow in the future. The author once again primarily utilises a chronicle style from Michael’s perspective, which really helps to tell this unique story, especially as it forces Michael’s chaotic and hilarious personality into the story and made every scene seem that little more entertaining and personal.
The narrative itself starts quickly and effectively, with a series of fun battles, big confrontations, and a horde of vengeful dragons, all of which ensures that the reader is quickly reintroduced to the chaotic main character and the multiple tangled webs and conspiracies that he has found himself involved in. The story quickly advances to the main issue of this book as Serena Hollow loses her memory, and Michael is forced into an epic quest to find a cure. This of course leads Michael to fight against the entire world, as everyone is opposed to his quest, and this ends up resulting in multiple intriguing or over-the-top encounters. At the same time, Michael is constantly trying to unravel the mysteries of the world and his many enemies. There are some epic scenes and sequences in this first half of the book that I really fell in love with, and Martell has some fantastic writing chops behind him that makes his outrageous concepts really work and come to life. For example, one of the best sequences in the first half of the book sees Michael trapped in his own mind, forced to experience multiple loops of a historical battle from an ancient time. The constant death and fighting that occurs over innumerable rotations slowly drives the protagonist mad, which Martell captures perfectly in exquisite detail. Partnered with this intriguing sequence are several scenes showing an external view of Michael’s body, which has been taken over by a malevolent entity. This ended up being one of the best moments of the entire book, especially as it has a very fun ending.
In addition to the action, Martell continues to unwind or add to the overlying layers of conspiracies, plots and personal or historical secrets that have always been such a fun part of this series. Several long-running story threads are finally resolved in the first half of the book, and it is so much fun to see Michael finally get quite a few intriguing answers. Martell really does not hold back with the revelations in The Voyage of the Forgotten, and the entirety of the book is loaded with characters unburdening their secrets (at least some of them) or discussing the unique history of the wider world. I absolutely loved every sequence where revelations about this universe and its fun inhabitants came to the surface, and it was fascinating to see how they fit into the wonderful tapestry that Martell has woven throughout this trilogy. This universe building is further enhanced by a series of great interludes with alternate narrators, which show events outside of Michael’s knowledge and experiences. Not only do these help to showcase some of the fun supporting characters from the first two books but it also deepens the narrative and shows what schemes his friends, and more importantly his enemies, are up to, which provides some fun foreshadowing.
Everything really comes to a head in the second half of the book as Michael and his companions are thrust towards their destinies. After several major setbacks and further revelations that show off the sheer scope and intricacies of the story, you and the protagonist are dragged back on the road towards the final epic confrontation. The author sets all of this off perfectly by finally answering some big secrets that have been bedevilling the protagonist since the beginning, and there is a particularly cool twist that makes you rethink every major event of the first two books. I really loved how Martell briefly changed the narration around when this big twist is revealed and had Michael address the audience directly to reveal why he never mentioned certain details in his previous storytelling. This helped to really sell the effectiveness of this major reveal, as well as showcase a previously unseen alternate layer to the character’s personality, and I personally thought that this was bit of pure genius from Martell. All this leads up to the big final confrontation as Michael finally comes face to face with Angelo Shade, the main architect of his family’s pain, as well as some other surprising foes. This big conclusion is everything you would want it to be, with some epic moments, utter tragedy and multiple character arcs coming full circle in all the right ways. While parts of this conclusion do get a bit overly complicated and metaphysical, I felt that it came together pretty damn perfectly in ways that really fit the universe and the controversial main character to a T. Readers will come away from this conclusion both heartbroken and hopeful, and I felt that it was an exceptional and very on-brand ending to one of the more distinctive fantasy trilogies of the last few years.
I honestly think that Martell wrapped this book up extremely well, and my only major disappointment is that there was not more crammed in, as I would have gladly listened to several more hours of it. The exceptional narrative, backed up with extensive lore, amazing character development and the very distinctive writing style helped to make this final book really pop, and I was honestly impressed every step of the way. I was also very happy with how Martell handled the sheer range of extensive storylines that he had set up in the previous books. My main concern before reading the final book was that Martell would be unable to wrap up every storyline or plot point he had set up. Indeed, there are still quite a lot of potential storylines and questions that were unresolved by the end of the book, but Martell is clearly setting up a sequel trilogy of some design in the same universe. Some of the best ongoing storylines have been left to continue in the future, and I for one am very excited for that as I hope to spend many more years getting lost in Martell’s world. I felt that the author was cleverly selective when it came to which storylines ended in The Voyage of the Forgotten, as he chose to close off the ones connected with protagonist Michael Kingman, while leaving others open. This ensures that any future stories will probably focus on some of the other characters that Martell has set up in this trilogy, and indeed it is pretty clear who that will be. I personally look forward to seeing a new take on this universe in the future, and it will be very interesting to see how the narrative continues with a major change in perspective.
One of the things that has always impressed me about The Legacy of the Mercenary King trilogy is the elaborate and well-thought-out fantasy world that the story has been set in. Its dark and grim nature, coupled with the intricate history, compelling magic system, and diverse people, has always added so much to the story, and this remains true in The Voyage of the Forgotten. Because he did not shut off this universe completely, Martell was given free rein to continue to expand on his elaborate universe, and boy did he. The reader is treated to a ton of extra information and history about this amazing world, including some of the strongest glimpses about the mysterious Wolven Kings, the world’s various immortals and other unique creatures, and their long-running battles throughout history. There are several glimpses of the past thanks to magic, and you really learn a lot about what previously befall many of the immortal characters and how this affects their current motivations. In addition, several new cities, islands, nations, groups and other great elements are featured heavily in the plot as Michael and his companions explore the wider world and engage on some massive sea voyages. Martell does a great job of incorporating these new elements or character history into his wider narrative, with the protagonists either spending substantial time exploring this information, or else discussing it with the clear intention that it might become a major detail in the future. I really enjoyed how many of the previous novel’s mysteries were answered thanks to world expansion featured in this novel, and it is very clear that Martell has a lot more planned for this fantasy world in the future.
Of course, I also need to mention the cool magical system that Martell features throughout The Voyage of the Forgotten, especially as it has some major and extremely clever implications on the plot. Like the first two books, the main form of magic featured is Fabrication, which forces the user to sacrifice their memories to perform magic. It is actually quite horrifying to see the consequences of Fabrication misuse, as some of the users forget friends, facts or family, and this is often enhanced by the user’s sacrifice or by the fact that they suddenly lose all concept of someone they’d grown close to. However, this is nothing to becoming a Forgotten, someone who has completely lost their memories or sense of self, and this is strong explored in this book. I deeply appreciate the amazing way that Martell utilises this memory loss throughout The Voyage of the Forgotten, especially when it relates to the protagonist, as he often does not remember what he is forgetting, and it is always very heartbreaking when you notice that he, or one of the supporting characters, has forgotten something or someone important. This darker side of magic is well counterbalanced by the various impressive usages that occur throughout The Voyage of the Forgotten, and there are some rather elaborate battles that take place as a result. Martell also does a very deep dive into the origins of magic in this novel, and you find out some interesting facts about Fabrication, as well as other magical disciplines that exist in this universe, many of which have been cleverly foreshadowed throughout the trilogy. I really enjoyed seeing some of the over-the-top magic that was utilised by other characters throughout the various battles, and there are some very interesting moments as a result. It will be very interesting to see what happens to the magic use in the future, especially considering the major changes to Fabrication theory that occurred at the end of The Voyage of the Forgotten, and I look forward to seeing how Martell continues that intriguing plot thread.
While I can go on about the story, setting, magic and writing, for me the true strength of The Legacy of the Mercenary King books has always been the outstanding and extremely complex characters. This remains the case in The Voyage of the Forgotten as Martell brings many of his best characters back for a particularly emotional adventure. There are so many major and dramatic character moments throughout this book as Martell used the end of the trilogy to wrap up multiple character storylines and events. I really appreciated some of the fantastic development and big character moments that occurred throughout this final book in the trilogy, and fans of the first two novels are going to be very moved by what happens to their favourite characters.
The primary focus of the plot is naturally Michael Kingman. Martell has done some real wonders around Michael Kingman in the last two books, and he has ended up being one of the most complex characters you are ever likely to encounter. A highly damaged individual who has had his mind warped by magic, has seen his family destroyed, has been forced to live up to an impossible legacy, and has been kept apart from the love of his life, Michael has had a lot of growing to do in the last two books, and Martell has really laid on the character development. As such, the Michael Kingman in The Voyage of the Forgotten is wiser and more mature than we have previously seen, although he still has some ways to go. However, Martell ensures that this growth continues in this final book, as he keeps trying to become a better person, especially when faced with the certainty of his death and the loss of people he loves. There are some major moments when Michael is forced to face damaging revelations or hard truths and each of them change him in some way, often during a pivotal and well-written scene. Martell also cleverly includes some great secrets about his past and his life that I thought were pretty damn epic, especially as it answers some major questions about his personal history and why he is stuck in the middle of events.
Despite all this, Michael is still the same cocky bastard that he was at the start of the trilogy and his overconfidence, determination and sheer ability to enrage anyone he comes into contact with is so damn entertaining. Seeing normally calm and collected characters trying to deal with the Michael problem always result in some of the funniest scenes, and I loved the often hilarious edge that the character brings to much of the story due to his amusing narration. As such, you find it very hard to dislike Michael, no matter how hard you try, and his unique and heartbreaking tale is one that will appeal to many people. Martell wraps up much of Michael’s great and intense story in this final book and it was very moving to see some of the dark sacrifices the character is forced to make to save his family and fix some of his biggest mistakes. I guarantee you will not be prepared for everything that Michael goes through in The Voyage of the Forgotten, but you won’t be able to turn away as Martell does some dark, yet wonderful things, to his best creation.
In addition, quite a lot of the book focuses on major secondary character Serena Hollow, Queen and love of Michael’s life, who has had a turbulent relationship with her Kingman. This relationship gets even more complex in The Voyage of the Forgotten, especially when Serena becomes a Forgotten without any idea of who she is or what her many responsibilities are. You see a much more free version of the character in this book, and I found the differences between this person and the vengeful queen of the second book to be very intriguing. The continued focus on the relationship between Michael and Serena hits extra hard as a result of this loss of memory, and it is fascinating and moving to see them attempt to rekindle what they had. Honestly, their entire story is pretty tragic in this final book, but I was nice to see a powerful conclusion to their doomed love story and Martell features some damn fine character work when it comes to Serena.
Aside from Michael, The Voyage of the Forgotten features a rich and extensive cast of characters, many of whom are returning from the previous two books. Standout characters include Dark, the mercenary killer who serves as Michael’s mentor and possibly most dangerous foe, as he attempts to find his own way to bring back the dead. Dark is a brilliant character, and I love how Martell has written such an edge of menace around him, although by the events of The Voyage of the Forgotten Michael is pretty much immune to it, resulting in some very entertaining interactions. You also have to love the sinister Angelo Shade as the main antagonist of the book. Michael’s former foster father and the man responsible for his family’s downfall, Angelo has been an outstanding manipulative bugger the entire way through this trilogy, and I loved seeing more of his games in this final book. Watching his elaborate plans come to fruition is pretty amazing, and Martell does a good job continuing to show his past and motivations, ensuring his obsession with bringing back his dead wife is mirrored by Michael’s attempts to save Serena. Other great characters like Naomi, Chloe and Alexis have some fantastic moments in this book as the main supporters of Michael and Serena, and it was great to see some of their storylines. The rest of the cast make some fantastic appearances as well, although it is interesting that several key characters from the first two novels only had minor appearances, and indeed I was a tad disappointed that some figures, such as amusing immortal nobleman, Charles Domet, were barely featured. However, it is clear that Martell is saving them up for future entries in this larger series, and I look forward to seeing what happens to them next. Overall, this was a great cast of characters and Martell should be congratulated on the amazing character work he did.
While I received a massive physical copy of The Voyage of the Forgotten, I chose to listen to the audiobook version of this book when it first came out, and boy was I glad that I did. I have often said that the audiobook format is the perfect way to absorb vast amount of lore and universe elements (at least for me), and, with all the revelations and expansions that Martell featured here, that proved to be a major boon. The story came across perfectly in this format, and you can easily visualise the powerful scenes, battles of wits, and some of the more outrageous actions of the characters, as they are read out to you. It helps that this audiobook was once again narrated by one of my favourite audiobook narrators, Joe Jameson, who has impressed me before with the first two audiobooks in the series, and with his work on King of Assassins by R. J. Barker and the fun Warhammer 40,000 novel, Fire Made Flesh. Jameson always does a remarkable job with his narration of Martell’s books, and his great tones and pacing help to move The Voyage of the Forgotten along at a fast clip. However, the main advantage of Jameson as a narrator is the cool voices he brings out for the characters. While I was not the biggest fan of a couple of his female voices, the majority of his narration was pretty much spot on and I felt that he really showcased the cool personalities and emotions of the key figures. However, the best voice is saved for the main protagonist and narrator Michael Kingman, who Jameson perfectly encapsulates throughout the course of the audiobook. Jameson really gets into Michael’s head with his narration and expertly portrays his personality, emotions and thought process. This great portrayal of the central characters adds so much to overall quality of the entire audiobook, and my enjoyment of The Voyage of the Forgotten as a whole, and I loved every damn second of Jameson’s narration as a result. This honestly was the best way I found to enjoy The Voyage of the Forgotten, and I very strongly recommend it as a result. With a run time of just under 20 hours, it does take a little bit of effort to get through this audiobook, however, it is more than worth the effort as you will have a fantastic time.
If this extensive write-up didn’t give it away, I clearly deeply loved The Voyage of the Forgotten. Nick Martell has wrapped up his The Legacy of the Mercenary King trilogy in an exceedingly epic way, and I deeply enjoyed how the elaborate, powerful, and character rich narrative came to an end. This is some of Martell’s best work yet, and if you haven’t experienced this amazing fantasy author’s work yet, you are really missing out. I look forward to seeing how Martell will continue this story in the future, and any follow-up trilogy that will jump to the top of my to-read list the moment it is announced. In the meantime, make sure to check out this exceptional book, as well as the proceeding two novels in the trilogy, as The Voyage of the Forgotten gets one of the easiest five-star ratings I have ever given out.