Battlemage by Stephen Aryan

Twitter summary: Pleasing conglomeration of gritty war/political intrigue/magickal battle.

Affiliate Links: Battlemage (Age of Darkness) ,Bloodmage (Age of Darkness)

First Line: Another light snow shower fell from the bleak grey sky.

One of the things I love about this book is also what I see as one of its, thankfully not fatal, flaws. We have gritty soldier on soldier battle, we have spymaster/political intrigue, we have high fantasy magickal battles, we have beings who are obviously not what they seem, and a “Who is your Daddy and what does he do?” subplot. I love all of them, however, I do think that they didn’t coalesce as well as they could have. That, and things like the first line of the book (seen above) failing to really drag one into the story, I believe to be symptoms of this being the author’s debut novel.  I have full faith that the next book will be more polished, and I’ll get to test that theory later this week as the sequel, Bloodmage, comes out on Tuesday.

I think one of the things that the author did very well was show that for as much raw killing power as the titular Battlemages have, it’s mostly used to offset the enemies Battlemages. Just as the Monitor and Merrimack mostly kept each other in check during the Civil War, and the aircraft carriers squared of in WWII, if both sides have technological parity it’s going to come down to two things: tactics, and grunts.

And that’s one part where the multi-veined story approach shines. One chapter we’ll have magickal derring-do, and the next we’ll get soldiers axing each other in the face. Then we’ll get a chapter where the spies and saboteurs get to do their thing. Scratches all the itches.

My other nitpick with the book, is that one of the antagonists has a great motivation and backstory, and the other is just a crazy guy who kills off his own people at the drop of a hat. I have a hard time believing that anyone is rushing to fight for a guy who kills off three sets of generals.

Final Verdict: I enjoyed it thoroughly, I have preordered the sequel, and I am looking forward to seeing this author grow as a storyteller.

Other Recommendations:

James A. Moore’s Seven Forges series has a lot of the same kinds of beats, starts with Seven Forges and the fourth book, The Silent Army comes out on 3 May.

Brian Staveley’s Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne also has political intrigue, bad asses punching and stabbing each other in the face, plus GIANT BIRDS THAT WILL KILL YOU and the trilogy just finished up. First book is The Emperor’s Blades

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Battlemage by Stephen Aryan

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