Thursday, 29 November 2007

‘The Awakened Mage’ – Karen Miller (Orbit Books)

Karen Miller’s ‘The Innocent Mage’ has been touted as one of Orbit’s big successes, this year, and having read the book it’s not hard to see why. Although it didn’t do anything particularly original what made it stand out for me was the depth of characterisation that made me want to spend six hundred odd pages with these people. By the time it came round to the cliff-hanger ending I really felt that I had invested a lot of time in Asher, and Gar, and was looking forward to seeing how the sequel tied things up. I took ‘The Awakened Mage’ to Vienna with me and although the pages flew by it was too often for the wrong reasons and I finished the book feeling a little disappointed at how things had turned out.
Following the climax of ‘The Innocent Mage’, Prince Gar now finds himself King and entrusted with the weather magic that protects the kingdom of Lur. Faithful Asher is always at hand to help his friend but will eventually be called upon to help in a way that will reveal his powers to all and will hasten the ascendancy of an ancient evil. The fate of the kingdom will depend on Asher being able to accept his part in an ancient prophecy…
‘The Awakened Mage’ has much to offer in the same way that it’s predecessor did, if you’re already a fan then I think you’ll get something positive out of it. Miller really excels in showing her characters as real people that the reader can identify with and places them in situations that almost had me holding my breath while waiting for resolution. Some particularly intense moments really held my attention and had me right there in the book living it out.
It’s a real shame then that these moments felt few and far between, stuck in the middle of endless conversations (and character descriptions) that showed how people were feeling but did little to advance the plot. There were times when I felt like saying, “I know how such and such a character is feeling but can we please get on with the story?” I even ended up skim reading large chunks of conversation which I meant I ended up missing important bits and having to go back. Because of this padding, it felt like the ending was rushed when perhaps more time could have been taken over it. Out of a six hundred and eighty-page book, only twenty or so pages dealt with the climax and maybe it’s just me but I don’t think it was enough.
The other problem I had was the use of prophecy to advance the story. I think ‘prophecy’ is a hard subject to tackle in any book, rely on it too much and it just looks like you’re using it as a way to get your characters out of trouble (I’m looking at you Mr Eddings!). Without giving away too much, Asher is rescued from quite a sticky situation by a prophecy that seems to have every base covered. Maybe that’s the whole point of prophecy (that it will happen) but it just felt contrived to me, almost like a cop-out. I would rather have seen Asher use his magic to escape instead of being rescued by prophecy, it almost rendered the scene in question pointless as you knew that it would work out fine.
As I said earlier, if you enjoyed ‘The Innocent Mage’ then I think there will be plenty here that you’ll like. For me though, I was left with the impression of a good series that could have been great. Apparently Karen Miller will be revisiting the world of Lur in the future, it will still be interesting to see what happens next.

Six out of Ten

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