October 9th Blog Tour
Title: Angel Mage
Author- Garth Nix
Publication Date: 17th October 2019
More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.
A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, a genius at making icons to summon angels, and supremely adept in forcing them to do her bidding.
Liliath already knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighbouring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendents. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will become ashes, or they will turn into beastlings. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.
But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who fix her interest, for they are the key to her quest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic.
The four feel a strange, immediate kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. Only Liliath knows their secret, and she draws them in to her complex plot, just as she manipulates Queen Louisa and her musketeers; King Ferdinand and his guards; Cardinal Duplessis and her pursuivants; and the Refuser Night King Biscaray and his criminal gangs.
All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else.
I have two confessions to make here. One, I have never read any Garth Nix before (despite having had him on my TBR pile for YEARS), and, two, I haven’t quite finished this as it is over 520 pages long and I’m in the process of moving house.
Those two things aside, I have to say that I am immensely enjoying this book. Firstly, it has three gorgeous maps at the beginning. I am a huge sucker for a well-crafted city or world map. Being able to visualise the city and other areas is a great help when the world is as vast and diverse as the one Nix has laid out.
And secondly, everything about the book is excellent. It has a gorgeous cover, the characters are diverse and interesting and the plot carries along at a nice pace with plenty of action and yet manages to build slowly enough to keep you guessing.
At first, I thought I was going to struggle with all of the names of angels and their place in the hierarchy but the author is great at giving you the information you need without oversaturating you in detail and so I was able to keep up with who was summoning what and how it was affecting them.
The plot itself is fantastic and I was immediately impressed at the uniqueness of how magic is used. Rather than telepathy, telekinesis or other varieties of magic that we have come to know from fantasy novels, in Angel Mage, magic is the ability to harness angelic help via carved icons.
This is such a distinct use of magic that I couldn’t help but be drawn into the world Nix created and was reading when I really should have been packing.
(It’s also great that the book is so big as I often used it as a paperweight for the stacks of paper I had to sign. Moving is such a hassle!)
In addition, the fact that there was still a price to the use of this magic in that it aged the user depending on their abilities and the request they made of the angel, was fascinating and I would have loved for Nix to go into more detail about it.
As I was reading I could see how Dumas and the Musketeers influenced the author. I’ve been a fan of the Musketeers since I was a kid and have watched many different interpretations on screen. My favourites, of course, being Dogtanian followed by The 1973 version with Raquel Welch and Charlton Heston. I could see those elaborate costumes and the mannerisms in the characters in the book which really bought it all to life. (The 1973 one. Not the dogs.)
I also really enjoyed the way that the first half of the book flickers between different points of view because Liliath is so single-minded in her beliefs and her desires that, if this was written strictly from her POV, I think it would read a little like a sociopaths’ diary. But, by bringing the four main characters’ voices in, we get to flesh the entire world out and we really get a sense of the scale of the events.
I think my favourite character is Dorothea so far as she seems so happy in her place in the world and is quite amiable and charming. I also really admire Liliath and am so glad that she wasn’t written as a one-dimensional antagonist, but as a well-rounded character with her own agenda and compelling beliefs.
Even though her actual motivations are selfish and a little psychotic, I can’t wait to see how the whole thing turns out.
Like I said in the review I haven’t quite finished it but I am loving it so far. The adventure and the rich tapestry of both the world-building and the weaving of the narrative are so wonderful that I keep getting sucked in despite having a million and one things to do.
I think if you are a fan of historial fantasy, love unique uses of magic or just love a well-told story with rounded characters and maps then definitely give this a go.
(I also highly recommend it to stop papers blowing away.)