Jim Melvin

The Death Wizard Chronicles

List of reviews

deathwizardtype
‘The Death Wizard Chronicles’ offers brave new fantasy world
By Ann Allen
The Charlotte Observer

We have a masterful new fantasy writer on the scene: Jim Melvin’s series, “The Death Wizard Chronicles,” creates the world of Triken, where the evil, demon-spawned Invictus reigns over a tainted city and plots to take over the world.

Two of six novels have come out so far. “Forged in Death” introduces the desert king Torg, who collects power by venturing through the portals of death with the aid of deep meditation – thus becoming a Death Wizard.

Melvin draws imaginative visions of this place beyond death, but his description of how Torg gets there has at least as much appeal. As our culture becomes increasingly enamored of mindfulness meditation, finding a character who has mastered these techniques feels very timely. And Melvin shows his literary mastery as he weaves elements of potential and transformation; his tale dances among literal shape shifters and more subtle powers of mind. Things are not what they seem on Triken.

Torg faces plenty of challenges, starting with how to escape an enchanted pit – imbued with evil magic – where Invictus has trapped him. He gets support from his desert followers, whose fighting skills make them nearly invincible. And a mighty dragon, in the employ of Invictus but seeking wisdom from Torg, attempts to aid him, too. But his foes have powers of their own, especially the corrupted snow giant Mala, who leads Invictus’ armies.

Torg’s post-pit adventures introduce delightful characters who join his quest to defeat Invictus, carrying us into the second novel, “Chained by Fear.” Here we meet Laylah, Invictus’ beautiful sister, held captive for decades by lustful Invictus. Long chapters show the depths of Invictus’ depravity – no, these aren’t books for children – and it’s a relief when Laylah finally escapes and the action picks up. She encounters Torg and joins his lively band. Mala, dispatched to catch her, encounters the dragon and falls into difficulties. But the fate of Triken remains at risk as Torg’s small fellowship moves into Book Three. “Shadowed by Demons” will be out by early summer.

 

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Layers of profundity in a powerful tale

By Robin Chambers
Author of the Myrddin’s Heir fantasy series

Jim Melvin has constructed his world meticulously, with more than half an eye on the possibility that its epic struggle between Good and Evil might eventually be made into a series of films to rival The Lord of the Rings. We know the size (in cubits) and complexion of its dragons and its demons, its witches, druids and assorted devilish creatures, and our ears quickly become attuned to a language reminiscent of Sanskrit – the language of The Mahabharata.

This is an intricately woven, impressively detailed dystopian world with its own version of the Dark Lord Sauron and his minions, against which is ranged the power of the Asēkhas – the greatest warriors that world has ever known. Their leader, Torg, King of the Tugars and a Death Knower, is convinced that force alone can never vanquish the quintessential wickedness of Invictus – a demon-wizard drawing power from the implacable Sun – and that goodness, mercy and compassion must be enlisted if virtue, morality and basic decency is to have a chance to prevail. “Hatred is never appeased by hatred. Hatred is appeased by love.”

It’s an interesting idea that lends a welcome depth to the kind of story that could easily succumb to the temptation to stage one mega skirmish after another, with little more character development than is usually allotted to the average orc. Torg is a formidable warrior with immense power and almost infinitely renewable strength, but he is also very wise, and a great healer, with a mind and spirit capable of journeying through realms beyond the reach of humans.

Jim Melvin has a sharp eye for descriptive detail as well, and a lyrical ear for rhythm and balance. You notice the mellifluous phrasing early on: “Thousands of golden flashes burst from the three-cornered conurbation, resembling a wind-ruffled lake sparkling beneath a setting sun.” There are plenty of well-tempered sentences to soothe the reader’s soul along the strife-torn way. Here’s another one: “The Warlish witch, her face full of filth and fire, loomed over Tathagata.” It reminded me of Marlowe’s Tamburlaine… “Torg wept too” added the sense of the kind heart of the saviour in the King James version of the Bible (John 11.35).

The author also understands his readers’ need for light-hearted – even comic – relief, which he introduces in a fresh set of characters after Torg has suffered the tortures of the damned for the sins of the situation throughout the first half of the book. Keep reading, and find hope and love and powerful forces on the side of good. “Nourishing life ranks among the highest states of wisdom, destroying life among the lowest… There’s no justification for violence.”

In this half of the book an alliance is formed that will change the world. It’s a long story, and in these first episodes Jim Melvin ably prepares you for the journey. At the end of the book there are useful notes about the language, the places and the creatures we have met so far.

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‘Forged in Death’
By Rob Steiner
The New Podler Review of Books

Forged in Death, the first of six books in Jim Melvin’s Death Wizard Chronicles, starts out with a scene from a claustrophobic’s nightmare – Torg, the Death-Knower and king of the Tugars, is imprisoned by the evil wizard Invictus at the bottom of a cold, dark pit bored hundreds of feet into a mountain. He can’t stretch out because the pit is too small, and he can’t lean against the walls, because they’re enchanted with flesh-burning magic. He either has to stand or curl into an uncomfortably tight fetal position.

We’re only in the prologue, and the book is already giving me the willies. And that’s a good thing.
Torg eventually escapes the pit and embarks on an Odyssey-like journey back to his desert home to stop Invictus from enslaving the world of Triken.
Jim Melvin’s world-building was at once fantastic and logical, from the unique human cultures to the strange twists on traditional monsters. It’s obvious Melvin put a lot of thought into the ecosystems that support his world. For example, Torg discovers a race of monkeys that live deep underground. How do they sustain themselves? By carving meat off a gigantic tentacled monster that inhabits the caverns, like microscopic mites on human skin. How does the monster survive? By eating the monkeys. It’s an elegant symbiosis, and Melvin portrays other unique creatures similarly throughout the book.
Forged in Death has a non-traditional magic system – Torg enters a state of temporary death, feeds off the power of the afterlife, and then returns to his body magically recharged (which is why he’s called a “Death-Knower”). The evil wizard Invictus, however, gets his power from the sun. This is a switch from most fantasies, which usually have the good guys feeding off the sun and the villains using death for their evil schemes.
The book also felt like a primer for real-world Theravada Buddhism (something the author acknowledges). The characters, Torg in particular, describe the principles behind meditation, karma, the eternal quest for enlightenment, and reincarnation. As one who’s ignorant of Buddhist scriptures, I now want to read up on the subject to learn more.
I do have some quibbles with an otherwise outstanding novel.
The hero Torg was a likable character and an all-powerful wizard. But at times he seemed too good and too all-powerful. He won every battle unless he chose to lose, like when he allowed his enemies to throw him into the pit. I wanted Torg to fail or make more mistakes, and then watch him overcome those failures to become a different man by the end of the book.
Also, Forged in Death was a cliff-hanger book. I’m not a fan of the style, but it’s a personal nit-pick of mine and not anything Melvin did wrong. Readers who enjoy cliff-hanger endings, however, will see no problem with it.
Forged in Death was beautifully written and a worthy addition to the epic fantasy genre. I hope to see Torg challenged a bit more in future books. I also look forward to learning more about Invictus, whose brief appearances painted him as an “interesting” villain. And the final battle between Torg and Invictus — Triken’s two most powerful wizards — promises to be truly world-shaking.
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Book Review: Forged in Death by Jim Melvin
Martha Eskuchen
Reviews by Martha’s Bookshelf
Torg is a Death-Knower. You learn later in the book that he has lived for thousands of years… occasionally dying and returning, by force of will, to his body with more knowledge to continue his journeys and his battle of good over evil.As this story begins Torg is captured by forces of the evil sorcerer Invictus. Torg and his desert warriors could battle the evil army but they would risk the lives of many innocents. Over the objections of his men, Torg trades himself as a hostage for the release of the innocent villagers and the safety and freedom of his own warriors.Torg threatens death to any of his own who might break the agreement and try to follow him. Yet one brave, and impetuous, female warrior, Sobhana, dares to track him. She receives the unexpected help of a dragon, a mighty and powerful being who is one of the last of his kind. He is not under the mind control of Invictus and he has attempted to remain – or appear to be – neutral.Torg is placed in isolation in painful torture and depravation. It is quite gruesome to read what Torg suffers. Sobhana schemes to rescue him before he dies, not realizing he can die and return with some strength to fight and escape.Once Torg returns he has new insights and each day is a new adventure. There are many horrible creatures to fight,  strange new friends to help him recover and mystical powers to be gained from the earth and nature (trees). Torg is visited by a ghostly presence who he helps and who tells him glimpses of his future. Torg’s thousand years of celibacy is broken in trade for assistance and power.I was consistently pulled by the imaginative fantasy of the characters and the metaphysical world created by Mr. Melvin. There are some harsh images of torture and some sexual scenes that make the story more appropriate for adult reading. This is fast paced with good action and always something new on the next page! If you are a fan of fantasy I recommend that you check this out.
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‘Death Wizard’ Captures Magic Of Potter Series
By Karen Hamon Long
Tampa Tribune
Adult Harry Potter and Eragon fans can get their next fix with Jim Melvin’s six-book epic The Death Wizard Chronicles.In (Forged In Death), Melvin’s imagination and writing equal that of J.K. Rowling, author of the fantastically popular Harry Potter series, and Christopher Paolini, author of Eragon and Eldest. Some of his descriptions — and creatures — even surpass theirs.His fantasy takes place on Triken, a world of ancient rulers, of good vs. evil, love vs. hate.His hero, Torg, wizard king of the Tugars, is a “Death Knower,” who has died and come back to life stronger than ever many times over the centuries. Torg oversees a peaceful people threatened by an evil ruler, Invictus.In exchange for the freedom of nuns and monks imprisoned by Invictus, Torg agrees to imprisonment in a pit in a monstrously grotesque frozen mountain called Asubha. No one expects him to survive.But through his magical powers, great strength and by dying and resurrecting, he survives all that’s thrown at him: a monstrous snow giant, demons, evil sorcerers, a cruel spider and giant worm monsters.Melvin’s descriptions of these monsters make them seem frightfully real. That’s especially true of the demon Vedana, Invictus’ grandmother, who forces Torg to impregnate her.Melvin’s hero may not have the youthful appeal of Harry Potter, but he’s compelling enough to hook those who read (Forged In Death).
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Meditative and beautiful
Humanity’s Darker Side blog
Jim Melvin’s introduction of Torg’s First Death is worded thus:The Death Wizard Chronicles is a six-book epic fantasy that debuted August 2012 (Bell Bridge Books). The main character, Torg, is a Death-Knower wizard who has died and then returned to life more than a thousand times. The story below describes Torg’s first death.I include the below quote to illustrate the mood of the story:”As he walked across the still-warm sand, Torg felt the pull of a seductive will far stronger than his own. He had no power to resist it – and would not have, even if able. He wanted to make this journey into death. And, if he was worthy, return.”Death is something I find incredibly fascinating, something I do not fear much. Much of my fascination comes from that part of me that fears my disintegration and disappearance into stardust.What if I could actually return from death, not as a vampire or anything else weird, but as a regular/irregular person? Would I want to? What if I was a Tugar who consider it the ultimate privilege? Would I strive for a return?Torg’s First Death is a short-story that raised many questions inside my head. Melvin drew me slowly into Torg’s self-control. I found myself envying Torg his ability to still his mind. When it is time for me to die I wish I could control it as well as Torg does. I wish we all could. Melvin’s description is beautiful and peaceful. His cover fits the mood of Torg’s story well.

About The Author

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Jim Melvin was an award-winning journalist at the St. Petersburg Times for twenty-five years. As a reporter, he specialized in science, nature, health and fitness, and he wrote about everything from childhood drowning to erupting volcanoes. Jim is a student of Eastern philosophy and mindfulness meditation, both of which he weaves extensively into his work. Jim is the author of The Death Wizard Chronicles, a six-book epic fantasy for mature audiences. But he and his agent are now actively marketing book 1 of an epic fantasy trilogy for ages 12 and up titled Dark Circles.

About my Publisher

The Death Wizard Chronicles is being published by Bell Bridge Books, an imprint of BelleBooks, Inc. Bell Bridge Books is known for nurturing emerging fiction voices as well as being the “second home” for many established authors, who continue to publish with major publishing conglomerates.