The Awakened Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker) by Karen Miller

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The Awakened Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker) by Karen Miller

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: Similarly to the predecessor, a good, rich mixture of traditional fantasy ingredients, with now familiar characters and a brilliant build-up of tension. The final denouement lets it down a bit, but the preceeding drama makes up for it. Still a very enjoyable, easy read & recommended to fans.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 560 Date: September 2007
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1841496054

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In the Kingdom of Lur, The Weather Magic performed by the Doranen king not only keeps the rain falling at night and prevents storms, earthquakes and drought: it also keeps intact the Wall protecting the Kingdom from the unimaginable horror lurking behind, the horror which Doranen unleashed by their unmitigated use of magic and from which they fled six hundred years ago to seek refuge in the country originally belonging to the Olken. The Olken are now a subjugated people, and despised by many Doranen as peasants though officially respected as partners in the old covenant. They are forbidden magic on the pain of death.

The Circle have been preserving Olken's own magic so it can be used when the terrible prophecy of the Final Days is fulfilled. All hopes lie in Asher, an Olken fisherman who came to prominence in the kingdom and is now - after the tragic death of the King, the Queen and the Heiress to the throne - the second in command to the Weather Worker himself, young king Gar, invested of magic only late in life. When Gar's magic fails again, Asher secretly steps in his shoes. However, the evil power that plotted the death of the previous king is waiting to pounce, and the more worldly but not less dangerous courtiers' intrigues also endanger the stability of the Kingdom.

The Awakened Mage, part 2 of the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker dylogy follows where The Innocent Mage left off, and for most of its substantial volume does it very successfully. As its predecessor, it's an easy to read but compelling tale that holds together well and provides a lot of drama, some reasonably plausible psychology and a very decent suspense. In my experience, books of over 500 pages are usually too long, but I felt that substantially higher page count of The Awakened Mage was quite justified by the demands of the twists and turns of the tale. None of the twists are that unexpected, but one is never sure what exactly will happen, and one keeps reading to find out and enjoying oneself in the process: which is the essence of enjoyable entertainment. The Awakened Mage has more drama (and sees a lot more magic in action!) than the first book, and this makes up for the lack of the wider societal picture that was present in The Innocent Mage.

The main characters that were introduced in The Innocent Mage are still with us, and they get better as they keep developing, a couple of them even attain a tragic streak that adds to the overall richness of the novel and almost none are simplified or clearly black or white.

The grand baddie threatening the world is a probably the least successful: starting from his name, Morg tends to slide into a caricature. I had a strong feeling that Karen Miller is herself, essentially, a cheerful and positive person who couldn't convincingly step into a mind of an "essence of evil" character, but then very few writers did anything like that successfully and perhaps Morg should have stayed shrouded in mystery.

The build-up to the disaster of The Final Days is very good, almost breathtaking. The initial catastrophes, the growing menace, the millennial feeling, the complacency of the ruling classes, the complex desperation of Gar faced with all that are all rendered well.

Some fantasy books have a hasty and schematic build-up to the finale and are saved in those concluding battle scenes. The Awakened Mage has a slightly disappointing finale. I find it difficult to put the finger down on what it is, but I think that it mainly boils down to the fact that I expected some result from the Wall collapsing: after all the mystery of the terror beyond it is a running thread of the whole 1000+ pages of Kingmaker, Kingbreaker. I will not go into details here as it won't do to spoil the ending, but those that like to have a truly impressive, apocalyptic finale will be only partially satisfied. It's not bad - just a bit of a damp squib after a brilliant build up.

I would have never thought that I would ever regret a fantasy series not having more pages, but in this case I seriously think that a trilogy of shorter books, with a more developed finale (and possibly, post-finale section exploring the new Olken-Doranen society) would have been more fulfilling.

Still, I had a very enjoyable day and a half with The Awakened Mage, and I would recommended it for all that enjoyed the first part. It can be, at a push, read as a stand-alone, but it's definitely meant to be read after The Innocent Mage.

The autumn is coming fast and fantasy fans could do much worse than get themselves this instalment (or, if not familiar with the first book, the whole dylogy) to immerse themselves in one of those wet and dark weekends.

Thanks to the publishers for satisfying The Bookbag's hunger for the series' conclusion.

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