Hello Humans! And a warm welcome to you all to my stop on the Angel Mage blog tour, organised by the wondrous people over at Gollancz. I’m on this tour with a number of AMAZING bloggers so be sure to check out all the posts in the image below!
If you’ve not encountered Garth Nix before, or you are like me and have a hard time remembering which author wrote what – most people will have encountered him through his teen fiction, including one of my favourite series: Sabriel. Don’t get me wrong, he’s written a LOT of books, and I couldn’t list them all without Goodreads in front of me – but I’d guess most people encounter Sabriel first? Basically, he writes good fantasy and good magic.
Enter Angel Mage, the latest book to come from Garth Nix, publishing 17th of October from Gollancz. I was lucky enough to be sent a gorgeous finished copy of this book for review and I’m excited to share my thoughts.
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 think anyone who has read the Abhorsen series will have an appreciation for Garth’s tendency to have big evil villains buried underground or somehow trapped for a long time before at last emerging. That’s how this book begins, our villain Liliath is out and ready to mess around with people, we hear of a mysterious ‘four’ who are key to her quest.
Unsurprisingly, those four are our main characters! I feel it won’t surprise anyone that the two women were my favourites of the four? I’m biased – what can I do? But Agnez was an amazing warrior woman, balanced by Dorotea the icon maker who has the kind of strength you find where people genuinely don’t care what other people think. I thought Simeon and Henri were also good characters but they didn’t stick with me as much as Agnez and Dorotea.
The magic system has been one of the big marketing points of this book, a system whereby one summons a relevant angel (there are different levels of angels) through an icon. While I don’t think this system is as unique as we might be lead to believe, I do think it was interesting that a kind of religious discord was built into the magic system. There is heresy in the magic system and, more interestingly, a history of that heresy. I liked how this reflects how the Church has simultaneously championed art and brought it down.
That’s not to say this book is referencing the Christian faith – it really isn’t. These aren’t the angels of our world – though the parallels are clear. While it’s a clear reflection of the church this isn’t a Christian book – just in case you were wondering.
I don’t think you necessarily come to this book for the plot, I mean, maybe you do – I’m not your Mum. But I would be focussing more on the fact that it is a fun lark with musketeers and angels. But if you’re a plotaholic I’d say it’s sort of like if a Brandon Sanderson novel had a baby with the Abhorsen series. Which makes sense really. I think Sanderson has the edge here, just because some of those ‘lightbulb’ moments fell a bit flat for me in Angel Mage.
It’s an entertaining read that draws to a really satisfying conclusion. This is a standalone and I’m a little bummed because I feel as though a series would allow these characters and this setting to really flourish – I might even enjoy a prequel or something similar? I’m just saying…
If you’re looking for some fun, different fantasy in your life I’d say this is well worth picking up, but I’m not to blame if you start decorating your home with icons.
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Angel Mage publishes on October 17th!
What say you? Will you be checking out the other stops on this blog tour? OF COURSE YOU WILL!