Book Review – Ever: Forged Into Midnight
Reviewed by Nicholas Dolern
An epic post-apocalyptic tale that explores nationalism, gender, and war
War, and its resulting loss of innocence, has long provided material for writers. Brutality, nationalism, religion—these related, intertwining topics are relevant today, have been in the past, and will be again. Sen Taylor takes on a far future plagued by war in Ever: Forged into Midnight.
The world is a set of fragmented nations occupying the land known today as North America. Each nation bases its culture on one of the signs of the Zodiac, with a hierarchical attitude toward the others grounded in religion. Though set far into the future, the novel feels almost like a fantasy epic set curiously in the past.
The story follows Saya, a young protagonist from Sagittarius. Assigned female at birth, Saya rebels against strict Sagittarian gender norms. With a declining birth rate and an ongoing war against Scorpio, Sagittarius needs women to tend to the home and produce future soldiers. Saya would rather be a soldier, like her father—a role designated for men.
Though her world does not have the vocabulary to describe transgender or gender-questioning individuals, it becomes clear that Saya’s nonconformity is an expression of her identity. After experiencing personal tragedy, Saya finds a way into the army, gaining a new name and a new pronoun in the process. Sai, as he is now known, vows revenge against the Scorpios who attacked his home city.
“Him saying that my face was soft like a woman’s was, in a way, the first time that anybody had ever complimented me on how I looked. That is, outside of when people were trying to be polite to my mother. For once, something about me was right for being a woman, but that didn’t matter anymore. I no longer had to worry about being a woman. I had to worry about being a man like I had wanted for all those years. The relief was heavy.”
Forged is rich in character psychology. Much of the novel depicts Sai’s battle training and wartime experience, and it engages in commentary on the nature of war and its effect on people. Sai experiences the emotional tug-of-war between caring deeply about his cause and the need to distance himself from the horrors he witnesses.
The relationship between Sai and his mentor Fion forms the emotional core of the novel. Their entertaining banter masks a connection that grows deep over time, fostered by shared tragedies. He cautions Sai on becoming desensitized to violence, a result of Sai’s need not only to prove himself among a corps of cis men but also to cope with loss.
Some of the novel’s most interesting moments emerge when Sai is confronted with the humanity of his opponents—and the inhumanity of his own leaders. There is more going on than meets the eye.
“When the faith we live and die by is threatened by outsiders, when our homes are torched to the ground, when our fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, cousins and friends don’t come back home after being sent to fight who we believe are monsters… you are given free reasons to hate. The enemy is no longer human but a monster or demon that will destroy your way of life if you dare to turn your back for a moment.”
As the first book of a series, some character and plot elements are just starting to pay off by the end of the novel, presumably to be developed further in the next installment. Background on the history of the twelve nations would be a welcome addition as well. One must wonder how our world—known as the “Age of Sin” to Sai and his society—became their world. There is fertile ground left to explore.
Ultimately, Forged into Midnight is a read for entertainment and imagination—for those who enjoy being steeped in the mythology of an alternate world. Fans of genre and series fiction may very well find themselves rewarded in this ongoing saga.
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy / LGBTQ+
Print Length: 392 pages
Thank you for reading Nicholas Dolern’s book review of Ever: Forged Into Midnight by Sen Taylor! If you liked what you read, please spend some more time with us at the links below.