R.K. Thorne's Mage Slave, #1 of The Enslaved Chronicles, is one of Fantasy Book Review's allocated thirty books to judge for the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off and after completing it I can announce that it is one of our semi-finalists.
At the start of the story, we are introduced to the two main Point of View characters. Firstly, Miara who is the titular Mage Slave. She has magical powers but has been branded and therefore has to use her skills as a 'creature mage' to complete missions and objectives given to her by The Dark Master, Daes. She might not agree with the missions but through the hideous never-healing scar the slavers can often control her thoughts and desires, making life sometimes truly unbearable for her and all the branded who are pawns to be used for numerous purposes. She is physically and emotionally unable to decline these missions or to escape. The second character we follow is Prince Aven. He is the heir to the throne of a rival nation although recent years have presented a time of peace. He is a great warrior, has a deft political mind, is loved by his nation, and he likes flowers and nature. The Dark Master summons Miara and assigns her to kidnap the crown prince, hoping that the outcome will lead to a full-blown war between the two once rival nations. Previously all Miara has had to do is spy on nobles and steal important documents so she can't help believing that she is being assigned to a suicide mission. Alas, she cannot object so she ventures out to see if she can complete this seemingly impossible task.
Mage Slave is pretty terrific YA fantasy that is well-written and highly polished. The story instantly presents a high level of professionalism which is sometimes lacking in certain self-published stories. It features a romantic storyline that I enjoyed following. One scene made me go a bit teary. I must have had some dust in my eye... The book seems written to present colour, nature and the elements in a poetic and picturesque manner that encompasses the action. I had a perfect picture of all the scenes so can confirm the worldbuilding is of a high level. The magic system was an aspect I really enjoyed learning about and following. It seemed quite simple initially but it is set up for some really interesting possibilities going forwards as characters become more attuned to their 'type'. Without going into too much detail, there seem to be 3 types of mages: Creature mages, Earth mages and Air mages. Each sort has unique skills and powers. For example, creature mages can become other animals, talk to other animals to ask for help or assistance, communicate via their minds and can heal.
I really liked the two main characters from their initial meeting to travelling as captive and captor but I won't divulge if or how their motives, feelings or relationship changes. Certain unexpected events do happen out there on the road as Miara aims to fulfil her duty. It was never going to be as simple as just escorting him back to Mage Hall as she was advised. The majority of the story takes place travelling between the two nations surrounded by the gorgeousness of nature. However, there are some scenes though that are pretty dark and the language used in these moments reflects that so these moments are heightened by lack of colour or beauty. If kidnapping a Prince wasn't difficult enough though there are a group of Devout Knight Mage-Killers who happen to be stalking the land. Aven's family aren't too happy that he has gone missing and will do all they can to get him back and also there is a certain secret that the Prince has kept since his youth that might influence the story at some point too.
This the first book in what is currently a trilogy although the tale here is pretty much self-contained. It's complete enough as a standalone but is enticing enough to want to see what happens next in this world. It is one that I plan to return to shortly. The finale was emotional, gripping and I was content with the outcome. I don't really have anything negative to say about this book. For fans of complex adult fantasy or readers who dislike romantic storylines then this might not be for you. That being said, I thought the romance was well crafted and believable. A lot more so that some other YA stories I have read whilst judging this competition. This is obviously targeted at the YA market where this book could really succeed. I'd analyse it's aimed more towards females. It already has a pretty large following on Goodreads and I can see why. Mage Slave is a well-crafted fantasy that is beautifully written with interesting characters, a fascinating magic-scheme, and an intriguing romance that seems a lot more real than rom-com. (Well, as real as it can in a world where people can turn into chipmunks!) If this sounds like your sort of book then you'll probably like it. It's not the sort of book I'd normally read but I finished it within 24-hours and honestly found it tough to put down. Recommended.
Review by James Tivendale
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