Garth Nix - 'Angel Mage' (Book Review)
A new world filled with fantasy, swordplay, and Angelic magic.
Garth Nix is well known as being a frontrunner in the fantasy genre. His previous works include; The Old Kingdom Series, The Seventh Tower, The Keys to the Kingdom, alongside many other adult series, children's series, including several standalone novels. These standalone novels is where Angel Mage fits in.
What sets Angel Mage apart from the rest of Nix's work, and the current crop of Fantasy novels is the premise on which this book is based. Angel Mage is based on The Three Musketeers & The Four Musketeers. With a faction in the book being named The Queen's Musketeers of which one of the main characters and eventually four of the main characters become part of.
Angel Mage takes place in an alternate universe Europe (or at least the map shown in the opening pages, shows Europe). The majority of the story takes place in the state of Sarance (shown as France on the map) with the story weaving its way into the state of Ystara (shown as Spain).
But the main attraction of this book, to me at least, is the new and unique magic system that exists in the world. A magic system that involves Angels and each Angel has its own set of abilities, whether to protect someone, light up rooms or heal wounds. The Angels are summoned using icons of the angel. The more well made/prettier the icon is the easier it is to summon. There would have been a very easy tendency to make this system extremely overpowered. But, using the abilities of the Angels will cost the summoner a portion of their life. This is a very well balanced system and one that provides all characters with a fighting change in each scenario.
The main story follows the points of view of Liliath, a powerful mage who has just woken from a century long sleep with the sole aim of being reunited with her lover, Pallenial-the Archangel of Ystara, and she does this with the help of the Refusers who were her followers years ago. These Refusers are also affected by the Ash Blood plague, meaning if they are touched by Angelic magic their blood turns to ash and there is a change. They will turn into Beastlings, a ferocious beast with no mercy.
Alongside Liliath, the story, for the most part, focuses around the viewpoint of four unlikely heroes. Simeon, a doctor in training, Henri, a fortune hunter, Agnez, a musketeer cadet and, Dortea, an icon-maker and scholar. This group of four people are drawn together by a series of peculiar circumstances. There is a familiarity shared by all four of them but none of them know what it is.
The story switches perspectives now and again, filling in details in Liliath's story after following the four protagonists. As usual, the don't get along with in the beginning, the become friends and begin to work together, solving problems and helping each other out of tight situations. The story continues to develop nicely, with characters being built up nicely, including side characters, all culminating in a huge quest to find some hidden treasure.
A final battle ensues, albeit a fairly short one all things considered; a few twists here and there as to who the hero of the story really is. Along the way, there are interesting and detail filled side adventures which all tie into the main goals and aims of the characters.
The plot is fairly streamlined with paths wearing across all the time to add a little spark to it making it enjoyable throughout. Garth Nix is no stranger to in depth magic systems, so blending this new one into the plot was no trouble and seems extremely well rooted within the history of the world he created.
Overall, Angel Mage is a fantastic standalone Fantasy novel taking inspirations from all walks of life and two very popular movies. It takes a complex and new magic system and implements it almost flawlessly with believable characters. At times I did feel as though making this book part of a series would further engrain us in the culture but it works just as well as a standalone. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Rating: 4/5 Stars (****)
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