Angel Mage is a unique story in which the reader simultaneously follows the villain and the ‘heroes’ – an intriguing narrative style that allows you to see what both sides are thinking and yet never giving away the plot, the reason to the villains goals, or anything key that may potentially spoil the story.
So, we follow Liliath, initially as she wakes up from her, more than century long, sleep with a single goal in mind- find and reunite with Palleniel. The story starts with her beginning this mission, and in doing so illustrating to the reader what has happened pre-sleep. Ystara was infected by the Ash Blood plague, its inhabitants either died from this or became beastlings, Ystarn’s descendants still are affected and cannot have magic used on them or they will die from the Ash Blood/turn into a beastling, and Ystarn’s descendants have become the lowest class of society. In this world people are able to summon and command Angels to do their bidding, some people being more adept than others, as long as it is in their scope/expertise through the use of icons. Liliath is one of the most proficient in summoning, commanding and icon making, and uses her skills to find her way back to Palleniel. She is also an expert in manipulation and you get to watch as she manipulates people in order to support her complex plots.
Alternatively, we also see the story unfold through four other main characters; Henri-fortune hunter, Agnez-the cadet, Dorotea-the student and icon maker, and Simeon-the trainee doctor. The four characters start their stories separately but eventually find themselves together, and with an inexplicable connection. We watch as they try to find out what connects them while they fight beastlings, find forgotten treasure and hunt for the Angel Mage-the famously gifted icon maker who is suppose to reappear.
The Angel Mage by Garth Nix was a book I definitely had to pick up- I love fantasy and have always been intrigued by the depictions and uses of Angels in fiction – and in that aspect I was not disappointed. The plot and magic systems are complex and convoluted- but in a good way where it is explained through actions rather than through bland explanations. Moreover, the idea of icons and the Angels specialising in specific areas was fun and interesting to read about, Nix also uses the status of Angels to adjust their powers ((i.e Arch Angels were stronger, had a larger scope and less restrictions.) Personally, I also loved the idea that using the Angels had a price (also correlating with their power) on the life of the user, this allowed for the plot to advance at a nice pace and for the characters to actually act instead of just commanding an Angel to conduct searches or smite down their enemies. Though, when the Angels are used it is done in a clever way and is interesting for the reader, specifically if the Angel is more powerful.
The only reason I dropped my rating for this was for some of the characters. The villain was interesting and good at manipulation, you admire her but dislike her- a perfect combination for the kind of character she is. However, I had difficulty connecting with the four main characters as I felt their personalities relied too heavily on their roles as cadet/doctor etc… Though, I did like the relationship between some of the characters despite this – particularly Dorotea and Rochefort. Moreover, I thought the equality and diversity of the characters was incredibly well done and nice to see, and it avoided the usual gender divide that dominates fiction which was refreshing.
The plot overall ties nicely together in the end, though some elements are more predictable, the ending was not. The resolution to the novel is surprising- though it felt a little rushed and I would have liked to see more of it- it was a shocking twist that I did not see coming and felt was clever, metaphorically astounding and interesting in terms of what its implications could be- in fact it would be nice to see whether or not this would have an affect in the future or if it was a one time occurrence (I realise this is, at least currently, a standalone – but I would love to see more!).
Overall- The ambitious plot was clever and successful, the magic system, world building and Angel depiction was original and well explained, the ending was shocking and unexpected, and there was impressive diversity and equality in the characters. Angel Mage was an enjoyable and magical read that kept me guessing the whole way through which kept me interested and intrigued.
This book was definitely unique and original in its execution and Nix certainly has an incredible talent in both writing and creating wholly unique ideas with mythology that is already well known.
I recommend this for anyone who loves in depth magic systems and Angels!
*I received an eARC from @Gollancz #netgalley in exchange for an honest review* #AngelMage @BookreviewsKb