Monday, 13 August 2007
‘The Innocent Mage’ – Karen Miller (Orbit Books)
It seems that everywhere you look these days there is an Australian sci-fi/fantasy author with a book for you to read. Let me say right now that this is not a bad thing! Glenda Larke’s ‘Heart of the Mirage’ was pretty good and I really enjoyed Fiona McIntosh’s ‘Odalisque’. Right now, the jury is still out on Trudi Canavan (although I’ve still to read her ‘Age of the Five’ books). I just finished reading Karen Miller’s ‘The Innocent Mage’ and I think she could be the best of the bunch.
Asher is a fisherman with dreams of finding his fortune in the magical city of Dorana. However, it isn’t so much fortune but destiny that awaits him…
Stop! Don’t go! This may sound like your regular run-of-the-mill fantasy novel (and it is to an extent) but stick around for a little longer and you may be pleasantly surprised.
What Miller’s tale perhaps lacks in originality is more than made up for by the freshness of it’s characters and the attention paid to the world building. By the time you have finished reading you will feel like you have known Asher, Gar and the rest of the characters all your life. Asher’s character, in particular, is difficult to get to grips with (at first) as he speaks and thinks in a thick ‘countrified’ accent that will have you re-reading certain passages in order to get their meaning. Once you get used to this though, you will enjoy being privy to the thoughts of a fisherman who is more intelligent than the nobility he works for. The issue of prophecy, in fantasy novels, can be a tiresome cliché but Miller appears to successfully side-step this by concentrating on the effects the prophecy has on those who must make sure that it comes to pass. Dathne’s character initially comes across as a shrewish woman but once you understand what she has to deal with then you will feel for her.
I did feel that the magic system wasn’t really explained fully and I’m hoping this will be resolved in the next book. How does the use of weather magic help to maintain the wall and why aren’t the Olken folk allowed to practice their own magic?
The story itself is told in a deceptively simple style that makes it easy for you to get into the book and then to just keep reading until you’re done. I polished this one off in a weekend and I’m keen to see what happens next.
Like I said, ‘The Innocent Mage’ isn’t the most original work of fantasy that you’ll ever read but after you’re done you will have enjoyed it too much to care. An assured debut which promises good things to come.
Eight out of Ten