The Innocent Mage by Karen Miller
Review by Flossie Brown
When I first stumbled across this book I was only killing time in the bookshop, and was intrigued by the title and the cover. I wasn’t expecting much. I wasn’t even planning to buy it. I certainly wasn’t expecting that I would be unable to put it down or get it off my mind until I had read both book one and two.
The story follows the life of a prophecy, and a fisherman named Asher. His mother has died and his father is growing old fast without her, so he plans to make his fortune and buy a boat for him and his Da thus escaping his older brothers. Heading for the richest city in the kingdom of Lur, he reaches Dorana, as far from the coast as he has ever been.
There, he gets a job with the prince, Gar, thinking he has come across a spot of luck, but what he doesn’t know is that prophecy is already pulling his strings, and prophecy is a cruel and unforgiving master.
It was the characters that really drew me in. Asher, Matt and Gar made you part of the world that they were in, they made you sympathetic and completely biased to whatever they thought because they came across so much like real people. Although they were not perfect or clichéd; Asher comes with a brightness that can be quite amusing with his bluntness and a strength of character.
In terms of language the book excels. Karen Miller has extraordinary attention to detail, and the point of view for each character is consistent but different for each one. She portrays Asher and his rustic fisherman roots incredibly well, using fishing based similes and a fair amount of ‘aye’s. In fact, the whole atmosphere of the book is warm and rich due to the language. There is something almost poetic about Miller’s use of words, so much so that I can still remember some parts off by heart. I can still remember much of the history and general ethos of Lur because she has a depth to her writing that goes further that just the plot and characters.
It’s difficult to sum up the flow of the story. It almost seems to be a collection of many events in Asher’s life; focusing in parts and just gliding over the surface of others. The closest I can get is a quote from the book where they discover a library that has been made of books rescued from a war in the past and preserved with magic. They are unable to understand why someone would chose to save such a random collection of books until Gar says “‘don’t you see? They were trying to preserve an entire civilization. To encapsulate untold centuries of lore and learning in a single haphazard collection of books. It’s an extraordinary ambition.” This is the best I can describe how the author shows the culture of the kingdom.
If anything could be improved I would say that perhaps the evil guy not be so stereotypically evil, though it is used to contrast with the man who wants to usurp the throne, and suddenly looks much less bad in comparison. The author also has a way of showing both opinions with conflicting characters, either in council meetings or arguments. There are parts that are reversed in the second book, such as when Asher and Gar watch a man face charges for breaking the law. Gar would like to speak to him and be kind and basically not hang him but Asher is not so lenient. But when it happens to Asher, no one will listen or be kind and he sees how it must have felt.
When I opened this book and saw that the characters were 20 years old and that one was called Gar, I laughed. I couldn’t see how I could relate to a character so much older that me or with a name that lacked all the grace of the usual fantasy style. Now, however, I could happily say that Gar is my favourite character, possibly ever.
Note also, that although it says book 1 and 2, they are two halves of the same story and do not attempt to read just one. It is not a satisfactory ending otherwise.
Shell from Winchester
Superb - characters are credible - plot is spellbinding - and not being a trilogy works well - recommend highly.
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