Top critical review
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on 28 March 2015
‘A Blight of Mages’, by Karen Miller, is the prequel to the series of the same author Kingmaker / Kingbreaker, and takes place in the world of The Innocent Mage, and The Awakened Mage.
The plot of ‘A Blight of Mages’ is simple to follow, taking place hundreds of years before eth great Mage war, and centers mostly on Barl and Morgan throughout its length. Barl, young and impulsive, wants to access magical education, but lacks the ‘purity’ of blood to access it. Morgan – a member of the Council of Mages – is intrigued by her power, and after some turns of fate ends up working with her. Combining his ambition and her power to create extraordinary new incantations that will, unknown to Barl, let loose a darkness hard to control. As such, the book tells the story of how Morgan, a great Doranan mage, became Morg, and how Barl, his lover, was to lead their people over the mountains to the county of Lur to escape Morg’s evil magic.
Now, I picked up this book without really paying attention to the plot, having read the Kingmaker books a while back, and purely looking for something different to read within the fantasy genre that was more magic-heavy. I enjoy giving books a try every now and again without paying too much attention to summaries and reviews and ignoring my first reaction to it. Sometimes it pays off, and I can find something utterly underrated.
Was this one of those times? Definitely not. If I had to choose a word to describe the entirety of ‘A Blight of Mages’ it’d definitely be ‘dissapointing’.
The plot is easy to follow: in a land where almost everyone can use magic there is a caste system set up that restricts the access to it. An unranked person doesn’t like this and fights against it. Somewhere along the pages of the book a romance sprouts, previously unseen magic is created, and a villain appears out of somewhere.
Though my issue isn’t with the plot in of itself. Though this line of plot is hardly new or adventurous there are many works out there following it which truly work and are amazing reads. Instead my issue with the plot was that after the initial pull of the book it really had nothing to offer, make it stand out, or be remotely entertaining. The plot and characters seemed one-dimensional and entirely clichéd, with unsophisticated and simplistic arguments against the caste system and the privileges of the wealthy. The dialogue, disappointing at best and lacking the interest than the dialogue in books such as ‘The Blade Itself’ enjoys. It seemed incapable of being interesting and distinguish between different speakers, and didn’t manage to advance the plot or story in any way. This goes without mentioning the attempt at ‘high speech’ in this book, an entirely different thing which was equally disappointing. The magic, did however succeed in being of some interest. Sadly hardly enough to be able to balance out the other elements of the book.
Then, there is the issue of pacing and development of the plot itself in the book. The first 1/3 of it seems devoted to the relationship between Morgan and Barl. Which, though I enjoyed as a romantic plot in itself hardly saw any kind of development of any kind as to the main plot. Then, suddenly and towards the second half of the book, the relationship falls apart and in five pages of italics a year-long exodus of 100,000 people and many of their deaths is added. Then, as abruptly as this appeared, a brand new character and POV is introduced alongside another argument. All of this without any kind of suitable development in the first parts of the books and zero sophistication.
‘Disappointing’ really stays short when referring to how the plot of this book felt like when reading it. Cliché romance stories have a place in the genre, that is true, and for a specific type of audience. But when they are included within something purporting to have a complex fantasy world that fails utterly and completely in this task, it is another story.
‘A Blight of Mages’ has zero political intrigue and no complexity to its society at all. It feels utterly ordinary, and a waste of good reading time in comparison to how other books of the same genre and similar plots are. A shame, since at the very beginning it honestly felt like it could be a great book to read, but it all falls apart as quickly as the main city where the story takes place. The dialogue is boring and uncreative, and skipping at times didn’t equal any lost information. As such, I can’t say I recommend neither reading nor buying this book (unless one wants to read a book such as this intentionally). There are much better books out in the market to read and purchase, and much better stories and worlds to get to know.