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Monday, 18 November 2019
Review: Angel Mage
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review!
More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.
A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.
Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.
But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.
The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else. . .
I'm a huge fan of Garth Nix, though I haven't managed to work my way through all of his books yet, and I've been so excited for this ever since I first heard about it at Gollancz's blogger evening. Inspired by the Three Musketeers was enough to draw me in, let alone the angelic magic system! Unfortunately, me reading this coincided with my rather stressful, messy start at university so it took me longer to get through this than it normally would have!
I loved the sound of the magic system when I first heard it described, and it certainly delivered on my expectations in the book. It was so original to me, and very cleverly done. I was utterly fascinated by it and eager to read as much about it as I could, and we do get a lot thrown at us from the start to do with it. It did take me a minute to process everything, but it was all I'd been hoping for and more. I loved delving further and further in to the magic and the angels and what they could do, not to mention the consequences to the magic, plus we had the mystery of what exactly Liliath was up to as well.
I was hooked from the first chapter by the action, though this does have some slower parts. When I had the time, I binged through chunks of the book with no problem. The world building was excellent as is to be expected from Nix, and it so easily pulls you in. The settings really take shape around you as you read, and there are lots of maps at the front of the book to help you with placement. The language used by Nix too, also helps to visualise the world our characters live in. He picks his words very precisely to help evoke the setting and aesthetic. Another thing I particularly enjoyed about this world was we had a lot of swashbuckling female characters as the world is gender equal. We've got lots of ladies in positions of power, getting to be complete badasses and I was living for it. Especially as there are no stereotypical gender types to be seen.
I will also say that I did screech when I recognised names like Rochefort or Dartagnan and so on. Speaking of Rochefort, I wasn't too sure about her at first. I did quite like her, but I wasn't sure if I was supposed to and I only ended up loving her more and more as the book went on. I was rooting for her to side with Dorotea, and shipping it too, I can't lie!
When it comes to Liliath, the way she's described as 'having a madness in her eyes' and 'corrupting Palleniel' had me unsure of whether she was the hero, the villain or just very morally grey. I was unsure whether I was rooting for her or rooting against her, but as a character she fascinated me. She gets more sinister, I think, as the book goes on, until she's truly revealed but I still couldn't dislike her. She was determined in her goal, she was ruthless, so very, very cunning and she made no apologies for any of it and I loved that. She was an excellent character, and a fantastic villain.
As for our four, I really, really loved them. They were each different, but they fit together and came together so well, and I loved the dynamic between them as they bonded more and more throughout the book. Simeon I will admit I didn't immediately take to, he seemed a bit superior or like he thought he was but he ended up being strangely humorous in his own way and he worked his way in to my affections. Henri, again, I wasn't quite sure about him, though I liked him well enough. He does love gold, and I did end up rolling my eyes at him a few times though in a fond way. After all, we'd all like to get our hands on some treasure I'm sure! Dorotea...I loved how chill she was, she was like 'oh, I'm going to the tower? Cool, I'm gonna have a nap'. She always remains calm and level headed, she's smart and I did end up genuinely shipping her with Rochefort! Last but not least we have my absolute favourite character, Agnez. I loved her from the start, we got a hilarious introduction to her and that scene will forever be imprinted in my brain to pull out when I need a chuckle. She's our Musketeer and she's very...rowdy. She's always up for a fight and very in to the Musketeers and her duties. I so fond of her throughout the entire book, even when she was doing crazy things like trying to duel with Rochefort! I need more Agnez!
I enjoyed meeting each of the characters and watching them come together as they happened to bump in to each other, or at least seemingly so. I wouldn't put it past the lurking Refusers to have orchestrated it all but I liked how it was done and I got excited as each of them came in to contact with the others. I loved how they teamed up to go on this adventure together and worked through everything as a group, and like I said, each brings something different to the table.
There's a nice blend of action, intrigue and world building, each of our characters has different personalities so you can never be bored by their interactions and their actions in general...especially Agnez. The writing was such that while there were slower parts as things built up, you didn't have to slog through pages and pages of description and so on. As I said before, Nix picks his words precisely, a single well chosen word going a long way to describe a character's clothing or a setting without using multiple ones and helping to evoke the setting and the world he was aiming for, pulling you in that little bit more. The writing is so very vivid and atmospheric, the world and the magic system able to be easily understood without making it too wordy and everything comes to a fantastic conclusion though I am sad that this is a standalone! I was ready to sink my teeth in to a full series of this, but everything is wrapped up wonderfully. I'd like it to be known I wouldn't be against to another book though...