Monday, November 16, 2009

"A Mage of None Magic" by A. Christopher Drown

Title: "A Mage of None Magic" Author: A. Christopher Drown Pages: 276 Genre: High Fantasy Series/Standalone: Book 1 of the Heart of the Sisters Publisher: Tyrannosaurus Press I received “A Mage of None Magic” courtesy of Mister Drown himself as an ARC, which I am happy to report tickled my reviewer ego. I mean who doesn’t love receiving an ARC? I also feel quite guilty for neglecting this title, even though I have completed it in August. It was a rather busy period that summer, so this must have fallen through the cracks. Thankfully I had scribbled down the essence for the review, but first let’s visit the story, summarized in the official blurb:
Folklore tells how magic came to be when evil gods shattered the fabled gem known as the Heart of the Sisters. Those same stories speak of the Heart being healed and unleashing a power that will bring the end of humankind. While travelling to begin his magical studies , young apprentice Niel suddenly finds himself at the center of the Heart’s terrifying legend. Caught in a whirlwind of events that fractures the foundation of everything he’s believed, Niel learns his role in the world may be far more important than he ever could have imagined, or ever would have wished. A Mage of None Magic begins an extraordinary adventure into a perilous land where autocratic magicians manipulate an idle aristocracy, where common academia struggles for validation, and where after ages of disregard the mythical refuses to be ignored any longer.
“A Mage of None Magic” is based on the principle “what you see is what you get” in sense that no shocking surprises jump at your imagination and the epic world saving quest genre hasn’t moved an inch. Drown revisits the old as the world itself tropes, polishes them a bit and then rearranges them into the story every traditional fantasy reader has been brought up with. Let’s revisit the recipe. Unlikely young hero, who has been thrown into the big frightening world with responsibilities, both hidden and known? Check. Prophecy? Check. The quest to save the world from an ancient evil? Check. Motley crew of adventurers, who have are bound to stay together with dark pasts, funny antics and humorous group dynamics? Check. As you can see Drown is juggling with many clich├ęs and I gather that for the readers that would be in search for the gritty, new and uncharted territories this book won’t appeal to them. But then again why not return to the more lighthearted, positive and humorous tradition quest fantasy? Yes, gritty, dark and tensed stories is where most genres have redirected themselves, but every once in awhile it would be nice to be involved with a story that has that happy spark you get to experience a bit of wonderment and some jokes. I think that this is what Drown has in mind and relies on. I enjoyed the prose, which was above average and had a melodious quality to it throughout the whole novel. Dialogue left me with mixed feelings, since there were genuinely good ones that enamored me in the story and then there were snippets, where the magic whisked out and I lost connection a bit. Good natured humor and verbal swashbuckling came naturally into the adventurers’ group dynamic, which is harder to achieve that one would suppose. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that each character manages to steal some spotlight and reveal a well crafted background. My personal favorite still remains Ennalen, the College magistrate, who after coming in possession of a Heart’s shard transforms from morally bound academic into a plotting, scheming and deluded Machiavellian character with her own theories about the mythology of the Heart and the Mage of None Magic. There are naturally certain aspects that I didn’t enjoy. The insufficient length has affected the world building and environment explanations and descriptions. I wish I would have a further glimpse into the Galiiantha, their ways, their history and their magic and sense their culture in its entirety. I also wouldn’t mind some insight into the College magic system in greater detail as well as some traveling notes that would give me sceneries to imagine. I’m also not buying how easily Niel has been accepted and trusted into the group. There is no transition from an outsider to an insider and although I do think the ending was action packed and tensed it reached its climax a bit too fast for my liking. As a conclusion I would have to say that “A Mage of None Magic” makes a good beach read and certainly will be a great choice for the nostalgic high fantasy with a quest reader that will leave you charged for a few days.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

Yes, I enjoyed this and reviewed it myself. A good start to a fantasy series for sure.