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A Reader of Fictions: The Hazards of Love 1 - The Decemberists

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Hazards of Love 1 - The Decemberists

A Blight of Mages
Kingmaker, Kingbreaker Prequel

Author: Karen Miller
Pages: 767
Review Copy Acquired from: Orbit

Description from Goodreads:
Hundreds of years before the great Mage War, a land lies, unknowing, on the edge of catastrophe...

Barl is young and impulsive, but she has a power within that calls to her. In her city, however, only those of noble blood and with the right connections learn the ways of the arcane. Barl is desperate to learn-but her eagerness to use her power leads her astray and she is banned from ever learning the mystic arts.

Morgan holds the key to her education. A member of the Council of Mages, he lives to maintain the status quo, preserve the mage bloodlines, and pursue his scholarly experiments. But Barl's power intrigues him-in spite of her low status.

Together, he realizes they can create extraordinary new incantations. Morgan's ambition and Barl's power make a potent combination. What she does not see is the darkness in him that won't be denied. 

A Blight of Mages is the new novel set in the world of Karen Miller's bestselling debut The Innocent Mage.

First Sentence: "There were times–many times–when Barl thought the sound of ticking clocks would drive her mad."

I like to think of myself as a very logical person. Sometimes, though, I really have to question whether that's true, like when I decide that, clearly, the first book I should read when I get home from BEA and am now behind in my reading challenge is a 770 page epic fantasy novel. While A Blight of Mages may not have been a well-timed read, I regret NOTHING.

Despite its length, I got through the book in four days, even though I've been busy with other things as well. The writing, characters and world-building all caught my imagination and would not let me go. Before I was even done reading the book (a couple hundred pages in), I went onto Goodreads and marked her other books to read, because I loved reading this so much.

Miller's writing is fantastic. I love the way she strings words together. Her diction and syntax both resonate with me. Obviously, she's fairly wordy--otherwise filling up so many pages is tricky--but I love verbosity. Miller is also funny; it's not the main point of the novel, but there were several lines that definitely made me laugh.

Her characterization is like insanely good. Barl, the main character, if you can choose but one of the cast to focus on, is 22 and as fiery a heroine as anyone could desire. Possessed of mage skills that outstrip those ranked above her (because Dorana's rankings are based not on skill but on status, which sounds a lot like our world), Barl desperately wants to be judged for her talent. She dreams of attending the based college for mages in Dorana, but is repeatedly denied. Barl is passionate, hard-working, cleverer than pretty much everyone, arrogant, stubborn, and bemoans those with a 'child-ridden fate' (40). Of course, I loved her.

I use her solely to illustrate the awesomeness of the characters. In lesser detail, here are some other wonderfully drawn characters. Morgan Danfey is prideful, a bit sexist, alluring and powerful. Remmie, Barl's twin brother, lacks her overt strength, but possesses serious loyalty and steadfastness. Venette is a nosy matchmaker, but she has people's best interests at heart; she is loving, and blinded by those emotions. Everyone feels real and believable, and, like with real people, you don't necessarily always know where you stand.

Ordinarily, I am not often surprised by books. Most plot twists are like ummm, yeah, you foreshadowed that like crazy on page 10 and expect me to be surprised? Well, recently, there have been quite a few that have swept the rug from under my feet, and A Blight of Mages falls into that category along with the YA novel Never Enough. With Miller's book, it's not so much that I couldn't see these possibilities coming as her setup made me root so hard for the other outcome that I was still blindsided.

Something to know: this book is seriously dark, which is part of what surprised me, because it's pretty light and then WHAM. Don't get too attached to anyone, because like a lot of good storytellers, Miller is not afraid to do terrible things to her characters, and there's a good chance some will not survive. There are some parts of this that are going to be haunting my thoughts for some time to come.

A Blight of Mages is a prequel to Miller's Kingmaker, Kingbreaker series, which I really wish I had on hand like RIGHT NOW, because THAT ENDING. Anyway, if you like epic fantasy, you should really, really go get this or Innocent Mage posthaste (depending on whether you like to read series in publication or chronological order).

Rating: 4.5/5

Favorite Quote: "I am bored. I am so bored. I deserve much more than this."

"She being full of charity, a credit to her sex
Sought to right the fawn's hind legs when here her plans were vexed
The taiga shifted strange, the beast began to change

Singing oh, the hazards of love

Singing oh, the hazards of love
You'll learn soon enough
The prettiest whistles won't wrestle the thistles undone, undone

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Blogger April (BooksandWine) said...

When Borders was going out of business, I totally stocked up in the epic fantasy section and Karen Miller was one of the authors I bought without ever having read her. AND when you wrote in all caps about THAT ENDING this is when I nodded my head and said good buying decision, self, since I have not really seen or read a lot of reviews of her, I just liked the covers. SO YAYYY FOR UNINTENTIONALLY AFFIRMING MY LIFE CHOICES, ha ha.

June 13, 2012 at 11:16 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Hahaha, yay! I thought of you when I was reading this, because I know you like epic fantasy, and I'm always extra excited when it's epic fantasy by a woman. Seriously, this was badass, and I think you'll love them when you get there!

Innocent Mage is on its way to me, thanks to the lovely people at Orbit who are just the best.

I'd never heard of Karen Miller, so I requested it on a whim. So glad I did! I mostly follow YA blogs, so it saddens me to think what I'm missing in the other genres. Oh well, I'll find it somehow, right?

June 13, 2012 at 11:24 AM  

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