Book Review: Toys and Soldiers

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog series on editing to bring you this review of Toys and Soldiers Book 4: From Johann to Tannenbaum by Ashlyn Forge.

Toys and Soldiers is an interesting series following a multitude of characters as they struggle to survive in an underground world of strange laws, strict customs, and strange elemental beings. Book 4 focuses on Johann, a young man from a wealthy family. He has no self-esteem, no willpower, no education – in short, no future. What he does have is a love affair with an Elemental named Tanner.

This love affair propels him out of his safe but depressing life and into a series of events which take him on a roller coaster ride through love, lust, depression, success, failure, betrayal, and eventually success and love once again. We watch a sniveling, overweight, loser become a self-assured, strong, independent, and emotionally stable young man.

The world Ashlyn Forge creates is rich with unique culture and technology. It is a hard, unforgiving world, but there are hidden joys and pleasures there too. As Johann and his friends struggle to let go of their pasts and embrace their simple futures  Ashlyn takes the reader on a journey through an underground colony with rich tradition and deep secrets, some of which are artfully revealed creating suspense and sudden twists, others are only hinted at.

The relationship between Johann and Tanner is a sensual and sexual one full of hurt and betrayal. It is a male/male relationship, so reader beware. Even though Johann begins the novel as a pathetic character I was drawn to him and remained fully invested in his story, even when he did some nearly unforgivable things.  The cast of background characters are lively and strong, each with a fully developed personality and back story. Their own struggles, though interwoven with Johann’s and secondary to Johann’s within the narrative, have satisfying conclusions.

I was fortunate enough to be a Beta reader for this novel and saw it through several major changes. Ashlyn is a writer dedicated to perfection. I don’t know that this book is “perfect” but I enjoyed every scene and every character from beginning to end. My only concern is that the sexual nature of the book, and the numerous homosexual relationships are likely to be a put-off for some people. I’m not into that lifestyle, and I don’t go out of my way to read sexually explicit works, but the story in “From Johann to Tannenbaum was strong enough to carry me through the sexual scenes.

I look forward to reading the other six books in the series.

You can find Ashlyn Forge at her website: http://www.ashlynforge.com/

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