Author: Stephen Aryan
Publisher: Orbit Books
Plot: It’s been ten years since the battlemage war, where thousands died as mages sundered the earth and split the sky.
Habreel believes eradicating magic is the only way to ensure a lasting peace. He will do anything to achieve his goal, even if it means murdering every child born with the ability.
As deaths involving magic increase and the seat of magical learning – the Red Tower – falls under suspicion, two students and one lawbringer must do everything they can to combat Habreel and his followers, before magic disappears from the world for good.
Mageborn was a spontaneous buy after browsing through The Works and getting carried away. I’d never heard of Stephen Aryan before this, and certainly hadn’t read any of his previous work. This is the first in his second trilogy – and I have a suspicion it is a continuation of the plot from the first trilogy.
There were elements of the world development that felt as if they were a recap rather than a development, which is why I think it’s a continuation. That being said, however, it was easy to pick up the world, the rules of the world and what was going on. It didn’t feel anything was missing precisely, just certain elements could have done with some more depth.
The plot follows several groups of individuals as they try to deal with an ever-increasing fear and hatred of magic as tensions escalates and violence breaks out, threatening a tentative stability after a large war ten years prior.
The various story-arcs and different plots meant it took a little time for me to get into the book. I was getting a little confused as to who was who, who had magic, what their motivations were and how they were teaming up. But you do get used to it and characters start to shine through.
“Was that you trying to be subtle?” asked Tammy.
“It wasn’t my fault,” said Monroe, wondering how many times she’d said that in her life.
Monroe and Tammy were my favourites. One has a complicated past but has finally managed to find happiness with her small family. Anxious to prove herself, Monroe uses her magic to try and get to the truth. Tammy also has a complicated past, but more conventional means of dealing with her problems; a sharp weapon!
Wren – a new student of magic – is shown to be incredibly powerful. I found it difficult to connect and empathise with her character though: she tries a little too hard to be the good girl and never seems to let her defences down, even those considered her friends.
Character development was an interesting one. Garvey is a member of the Grey Council, known for being fuelled with anger and rage. Wren distrusts him, but then suddenly sees through his act towards the end of the book. It was so spontaneous though; there had been two hints at the most that just felt like jarring character descriptions rather than subtle hints, then we’re expecting to see through the façade as well. This needed more of a “show-don’t-tell” situation as it was forced upon the reader suddenly.
The plot was good: tense, steadily paced and with enough danger to each of the characters that you aren’t sure what is going to happen. Knowing who is behind it the entire time undermined some of the danger for me personally – the “bad guys” weren’t particularly inspiring, even if there was a change of leadership halfway through.
I enjoyed the book: it had an interesting premise, some strong relationships and intriguing characters. It wasn’t the type where you forget to breathe, but a solid read that acts as a good escape to a fantasy world.