The setting to this book was mildly interesting, and there’s a bit of
world-building in the background. I liked the fact that the orcs were
not an evil species, but just another kind of being, but I wonder then
–why call them orcs? I enjoyed the parts where the two mages were
learning their respective trades, one with jealousy and the other with
comraderie. But the writing was not great, especially the dialog –and
most of the book is dialog. It’s stilted and ill-formed, with so much
stating of the obvious and repeating questions, and it was not very
enjoyable. Fortunately, the adventure when they meet up was interesting
enough to keep the flow of the story going, even if they are both so
na´ve that they were hard to swallow at times. My favorite part was
probably the rescue on the river, where they used both fire and ice. The
final battle was engaging, if not too intense. It was open-ended, of
course, with a larger threat showing itself, which I expect to be a
major part of the next book.
I’ve said this before, but the writing style has to click in the
first couple of pages, and I can tell when a book is going to be
difficult right from the start. The prologue with the orcs arriving at
the raided village was mostly dialog, and it was all stilted and
ill-formed. I thought this might be because we were getting orc-speech
as an accented version of the common tongue, but unfortunately the
author isn’t that clever, and the same kind of dialog follows not only
the orcs, but humans of high class and low.
Both main characters
are fish-out-of-water, completely na´ve and unaware of the world outside
where they were trained. It’s cute at first, but gets more and more
annoying as they discover more of the world, from the walled city to the
river and their final destination.
When his village is burned to
the ground and the villagers taken by slavers, Athgar is found by orcs
and brought to their village. There is a power struggle, and I fully
expect to see the banished clan leader in a future book. Found alive
surrounded by ash, Athgar didn’t even know that he had the power of a
fire-mage within him. But the orc shaman teaches him how to use his
spark, until he finally decides that he needs to go in search of his
sister and the rest of the villagers.
Natalia was the youngest
person brought to the school of water magic, but it looks like she
wasn’t being trained until she was much older, fed an inhibitor drug.
There is a hint of a noble birth in her history, but nothing more at
this stage of the story, which might be why she was kept safe until her
power was released. When she’s selected to be a battle mage, the other
girls (and boys, but we don’t really see them) are rude and
condescending to her, as they are all of noble birth. But Natalia is
the most powerful of all the water mages, and surpasses everybody’s
teachings. For that reason, she sees a future of exploitation for herself,
so she rushes to escape in the middle of the night.
and Natalia are awestruck by the big city, and they arrive within days
of each other. Natalia arranges a hotel room, and several new dresses,
hoping to attract a wealthy noble to hire her. Athgar finds a room that
he shares with dozens of other people, and he stupidly leaves his stuff
out of reach, so it’s no surprise at all that it gets stolen. Chasing
after the thief, he ends up in an alley where Natalia is being attacked.
He tries to save her, but she incapacitates all of her attackers, and
him in the process. Realizing her mistake, she brings him to her room.
Of course they fall in love and have off-screen sex, which Athgar
references several times later on, brand new to the concept, apparently.
We find out about the knights and the church in brief bursts and
spurts, which did not feel natural. With one brief conversation, Athgar
decides he can find out what happened to his village by going south
where the knights have their stronghold. Of course he finds the culprits
there, by the end, implausible as that seems.
The journey down the river was rather
enjoyable, except where Natalia can’t think of raising the water level
in the river (like she did in the bath) to get the ship unstuck. My
favorite part came when the pirates attacked, and both Natalia and
Athgar got to use their magic together. It was so obvious that Athgar
could strike the pirate ships, but his inexperience showed, in that it
wasn’t as easy as it probably should have been. Natalia uses her magic
to move the ship through still waters, then freezes the water to allow a
bridge people could walk on to get back to the ship. I find it shallow
of character that being a water mage, she uses ice instead of water
almost all the time.
In the southern city, where they go to visit
the archives (looking for a knight with a long scar across his face –not
much to go on), and are betrayed by their hostess. They were so
suspicious in her house, even exiting through the windows, that it was
no wonder that she turned them in. I don’t understand why Athgar was so
cagey about his past or his search, though I understand why Natalia
wanted to remain anonymous. While learning about magic at the academy,
she wasn’t taught anything about the outside world. Surely being
assigned to a house or family there should have been courses on how to
behave, and what to expect from the people who would be calling on her,
or those trying to take advantage. It’s hard to believe she could be so
na´ve. Athgar at least has an excuse, living in an isolated village and
being taken in by the orcs.
It turns out that the city of
archives is a merchant-controlled society that encourages slavery,
allowing the pirates to operate in their river. I don’t know how that
can be good for business, but I’ll go along with it. Learning of the
scarred knight in the clergy headquarters, they hatch a plan to search
the building, but are discovered, and a fire-and-water fight takes
place, nearly killing Athgar. There is something going on behind the
scenes where the new head of the water-mage academy insists on
neutralizing Natalia. Plot to be continued, I expect.
set a trap for the pirates, exposing a merchant vessel to the danger,
while attacking the pirates when they come out to get slaves. Athgar
finds an old friend from his village, but the fire he sets to kill the
pirates gets out of control, and the vessel sinks, killing even the
slaves. But Athgar doesn’t seem too bent out of shape about it because
he hears news of his sister, who is still alive.
friend helps smuggle them out of the city, where they plan to go after
Despite the weakness of some of their actions, I
did kind of like the two main characters. Unfortunately, the writing
style wasn’t too enjoyable, which made it more difficult to read.