On first impression Magic Casement - and Dave Duncan's A Man of His Word series in general - might appear to be just your good old-fashioned fantasy fare. And in many ways it is but there are elements within that lift it above the norm and in the end I felt like I had read a book that gave me the comfort I felt from the classic fantasy of yore with enough fresh ideas to allow it to sit unashamedly alongside the great fantasy books of recent times.
In the first book of the series we meet Princess Inos, living an idyllic life in her father’s sleepy, backwater kingdom. But when an ancient prophecy seems to foretell that she should be married she finds herself exiled to the Impire in order to learn to be a lady. And she is far away when her best friend Rap's magical talents begin to emerge and she is soon to learn of the fate awaiting them both…
I did enjoy the book and Duncan takes all the trusted fantasy ingredients, meticulously prepares them and brings them together with skill and relish. I think, in regards to feel, the series bears resemblance to Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy and I found the settings, the focus on characterisation as well as plot progression both well done and to my liking. I wouldn’t say there were any stand-out “Wow!” moments but in fairness there was also no head-shaking while reading and I was always comfortable in the author’s hands, knowing that I was likely to enjoy what I was going to read next.
In summary… the first and most pertinent question after finishing the first book in a trilogy is: Will you read book two? And the honest answer would be yes, but not immediately. And that says a lot. Yes, I enjoyed it but it didn’t knock me for six and leave me grasping for the second instalment, it simply provided a quality, satisfying read.
But as a caveat I must mention that Assassin’s Apprentice (the first book in the Farseer Trilogy) did not knock my socks off either and that is now a series that I hold in the highest regard and recommend to all who will listen. The first book in a high fantasy series is always problematic, with so many names, locations etc. to familiarise yourself with it is often not until books two and three that the reader is able to fully submerse themselves into the story.
I would unhesitatingly recommend Magic Casement to teenage readers and up – some of the passages concerning the goblins might be a little graphic for some younger readers. I have heard nothing but good things about the A Man of his Word books and while I may not yet fully endorse them at the moment, after reading books two and three I may do just that. Good, solid high fantasy with interesting characters and and a clever, constantly weaving plot and narrative.
Review by Floresiensis
8.7/10 from 1 reviews
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