This is a book I picked up at the local Half Price Books last week and promptly began to read it when I got home. While the cover art and catch phrase were very intriguing (“They dreamed him- and he came”) I wasn’t overly impressed with it.
Like most Fantasy novels, it began with a boy leaving his home and family and a prophecy that he knew nothing about. In fact, very few people knew anything about it, just those that were involved in a rather mysterious group called The Circle. The members of the Circle named him as “The Innocent Mage” who was supposed to come only at the end of times for their kingdom.
The first third of the book focuses on a young fisherman boy named Asher coming from the shores to the capital city of the kingdom of Lur, Dorana, where he hopes to work for a year before returning home with enough money in his pocket to buy his own fishing fleet. Dorana is different from the rest of Lur in that here is where the Doran race live, the only people allowed to do magic in the kingdom, as well as the home of the royal family, who do WeatherWorking every night to make Lur peaceful and without natural disasters.
Asher finds himself a job minutes within coming to the city when he catches a horse that has just bolted and finds it belongs to the prince, Gar. Gar, a Doran, is an anomaly within his people, born without any magic. Some consider him little better than the Olken, the non-magic users of Lur. Offered a job in the stables by Gar, Asher begins a tentative friendship with His Highness that ultimately ends in Asher being asked to be Gar’s assistant as he takes on the new position as the Olken Affairs Administrator.
Meanwhile, a Olken boy is seen trying to preform magic, strictly forbidden by the rules of the land. Brought before the King, Gar, and other members of the ruling council, he confesses his misdeed, and is sentenced to immediate execution. Faced with the fact that he watched one of his own people die for a mistake, and likely childhood foolishness, Asher must decide if he can stay in this position or not.
The second third of the book speaks of Asher’s return to his home after over a year away, and a gravely ill king. Angry at Asher for not telling him that he planned to go home, Gar is forced to accompany him to the coast to preform the King’s duties in bringing in the first harvest. But the king goes mad with fever, and does a WeatherWorking that can not be controlled and brings rains of Fire, giant hail and other nasty weather to the entire Kingdom. Gar is thrown overboard and Asher rescues him, their fight forgotten for the moment. At the end of part two, Gar rushes home to Dorana to see to his father, Asher joining him to return to the only home he has left.
In the third and final part, a library from the creation of Lur has been unearthed by the magical storm. This library seems to contain only stories of ancient Lur, but the House Magician finds a spell book that prompts him to do the unthinkable: look beyond the magical wall that keeps the kingdom safe from harm. There, he finds Lur’s ancient enemy, Morg, and his body is taken over by Morg to use as his own. Morg finds a way to shove magic at Gar, which causes an issue in the rules of succession, as now there are two children with WeatherWorking powers that could rule.
In an unthinkable deed, Morg enchants the horses that pull the royal carriage on their way to a picnic, assuring that they will slowly work their way to madness, unable to stop when the time comes. The carriage sails off the edge of a cliff, all of the royal family inside of it, except Gar and the House Mage corrupted by Morg.
This book had some wonderful characterizations that truly were amazing to read. The mesh of a royal Doran with no magic and a fisherman Olken who shouldn’t have anything in common really was the driving force of why I continued to read the book long after the plot showed no sign of revealing itself.
While well written, it moved at a snail’s pace, the problems only really occurring within the last chapter of each part, and being resolved quickly, without much tension. While being named as “The Innocent Mage”, Asher had nothing to do with magic at all, and never showed the slightest aptitude for even a desire to learn it.
It also, sadly, seemed to contain most every fantasy cliché that is out there, from magic storms as a plot device for revealing the fabled lost library of the creator of the kingdom to evil enemies surviving in spirit form for 600 years that take over the body of another in order to fulfill their final plot. While the character of Gar was fleshed neatly out, the basis for him was Mary-Sue in nature: a man born into a magical society with no magic is cast out. The overarching plot of “the world is ending, only one man can save it” is also an oft seen stance in fantasy novels, but to be fair, it is a well-loved plot device that many first time authors turn to (myself included).
In all, the book is a fun read, especially is one if wanting to focus on good character creation. However, it is a book that I will likely bring back to Half-Price books and see what else I can find instead of adding it to my collection. The weak plot and slow pace makes it painful to keep going with it at times and I was happy to put it down and work on dinner as a break from it for a bit.
I give it three stars out of five, mainly for the fleshed out characters and world within.
Read it for yourself here.
cover picture from: http://www.fantasybooknews.com/files/2010/05/the-innocent-mage.jpg