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Review – Forging Hephaestus by Drew Hayes

What is Forging Hephaestus?

Gifted with meta-human powers in a world full of capes and villains, Tori Rivas kept away from the limelight, preferring to work as a thief in the shadows. But when she’s captured trying to rob a vault that belongs to a secret guild of villains, she’s offered a hard choice: prove she has what it takes to join them or be eliminated.

Apprenticed to one of the world’s most powerful (and supposedly dead) villains, she is thrust into a strange world where the lines that divide superheroes and criminals are more complex than they seem. The education of a villain is not an easy one, and Tori will have to learn quickly if she wants to survive. On top of the peril she faces from her own teacher, there are also the capes and fellow apprentices to worry about, to say nothing of having to keep up a civilian cover.

Most dangerous of all, though, are those who loathe the guild’s very existence. Old grudges mean some are willing to go to any length to see the guild turned to ash, along with each one of its members. Even the lowly apprentices.

Review

FORGING HEPHAESTUS is a lengthy (700+) page novel by Drew Hayes about the Guild of Villainous Reformation. The organization is a semi-public group that exists for the purposes of redeeming villains but, actually, is the mafia that maintains a ruthless grip on the world’s supervillains.

The Guild is in a very comfortable, almost chummy, relationship with the heroes and eliminates the worst of their kind while keeping the families of heroes out of their crimes’ ways. This doesn’t sit well with all of the heroes and villains with some of them wanting to go back to a more Wild West-esque lawlessness.

Toni is unaware of this, though, when she gets captured by the Guild while breaking into one of their vaults. This was all a test to see if she had the makings of being a member of the Guild and they assign her to Pseudonym, formerly the supervillain Fornax, who is presently just going by the name Ivan. Ivan is one of the most feared supervillains to ever live but has retired for the purposes of living a normal life with the caveat of keeping part of the Guild’s business in order to maintain the tenuous peace between heroes and villains. He and Toni instantly bond as the former explains the importance of the Code.

The Guild is a bit boring in how much it does in order to make itself presentable to the rest of the world, almost to the point they might not be villains at all. If you like your bad guys as agents of chaos then this is definitely not the book for you. However, that’s the set up for the book as we come to understand the rebels who want to go back to the old days and the horrific consequences of what happens when the peace is finally broken.

My favorite part of the book is the fact the heroes haven’t always been heroic. They are forced to deal with a long-time member who is openly racist and the fact its predecessor organization stole a magic crown from a black superhero for no other reason than to keep him from helping people. They’re still “mostly” good but the law has never been entirely the side of right.

I liked all the main characters from Cyber Geek to Bahamut with all of their individual tales tying into the greater themes of Hero vs. Villain as well as how both is really just a point of view at this time. It’s like a more realistic City of Heroes versus an actual conflict between good vs. evil. That’s because of the Guild trying to be embrace Pragmatic Evil (see TV tropes.org) versus the more flamboyant evil of the comics.

Overall, this was a decent read but a little slow to reach its climax. The characters are okay but not exceptional either. They rarely move past their archetype of geeky heroes or lovable rogues or unspeakable evils. So I recommend the story to those who want a long but enjoyable story without many surprises.

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