Brought to you by OBS reviewer Alina
Beware of possible spoilers
To prove her Adept potential, seventeen-year-old mage Eriale embarks on her first magical quest. She expects a glittering foreign escapade but ends up in Grumesh, the land rife with poverty and violence, where local courier Kealan becomes her only friend and ally. Together, they survive an explosion, a treacherous incarceration, and a daring escape. Sparks of interest ignite between them, but before Eriale can explore her attraction to Kealan, she discovers blood magic running amok in the city. Her priorities must change. As an aspiring Adept, she is duty-bound to find and eliminate the blood mage of Grumesh, or the blood magic will taint the entire land. No matter the cost—her life or her heart—she can’t let the vile mage win. (Goodreads)
I had a lot of fun reading this book from beginning to end. It is very fast paced and has surprised me at every turn. When I started reading it, I had no idea that I would enjoy myself so much. The characters are extremely lively and real. You get to know them well, you feel for them and can’t help but root for them. The magic is really cool and very elaborate. And the whole atmosphere is permeated by a feeling of medieval romance.
There are several countries or magical kingdoms, if you will, that are clashing in this story. One is Grumesh, a tiny country ruled by a Roodiman governor, then there’s Roodim itself, an empire that preys on small countries, and Varelia, where Eriale’s half sister Tamara is Queen. Ten years before, Roodim conquered Grumesh and drove all its noblemen into hiding. They kept on fighting back, led by Kealan Machaon, but eventually realized that there is no chance for them and the best option is to just try to stay alive and build a new life for their children.
Eriale is the main character and she is really something. She is 17 years old and a great magician, “the best mage in the kingdom”, actually, according to her. The only downside to her greatness is that in order to become an Adept, she needs to lose her virginity. While it was very amusing to witness Eriale’s discussions with her parents about her budding sexuality, I felt that this whole thing about losing her virginity was a tad annoying for me. Eriale is young and inexperienced, true, but at the same time she is so sure of herself, so ready for anything, that I don’t think that losing her virginity would make any difference to her. It definitely did not involve her emancipation, since she was going to be forced to marry Gordin, an idiot who tried to rape her and ended up with a mutton head instead of his head. The only conclusion I could draw was that losing her virginity actually increased her magic, but then again, she proves herself beforehand anyway.
Ok, so this takes care of the only complaint I had about the book. Let’s go on to the next level, the cool stuff. I thought the magic of Eriale and her father was wonderful. They can build gateways to places that they know, so that they can travel between their home and Tamara’s castle, and this proves a perfect way of saving Kealan from the prison where he was under torture. I also admired how well her father had taught her to loath “blood magic” = black magic, that just by feeling its presence, Eriale starts feeling nauseated. Of course, her father’s magic made it all pretty easy for her in the beginning of her Journeyman quest, so I was excited when her hatch bag (another gateway to her father’s money and food) is stolen and she finally starts showing us her own magic. Eriale is definitely a great role model to follow: she is not only sure of her sexuality, she is great at what she does and, even if a lady by birth, she shows kindness to lesser creatures and gives up her comfort in order to help others in need, which are traits of great leaders, in my opinion.
Kealan is another great character. In his late 20s or early 30s, he used to be the Captain of the High Guard of the Grumesh Republic, before the war with the Roodim Empire. Now he sits on the Grumesh treasure, but instead of using it for his comfort, he shares it between the families of his ex-fellow guards. He is immediately drawn to Eriale when they meet and, all through their relationship, can’t help but have all kinds of naughty dreams about her. He tries to escape her at first, but:
“The sneaky little temptress was obviously older than she looked and not so innocent either.”
What a pair these two make!
The “power-hungry” magician Udolen, cousin to Kealan and leader of the new resistance army, is of course, the villain. We don’t get to learn many details about him, except the kind of magic he has, and that is more than enough. He has created magical tentacles, with the help of which he feeds on the life forces of people he pretends to save. I found him extremely repulsive and his magic, absolutely horrible. The author has done a great job with it.
I don’t know if the author has plans to continue with this magical world, but I believe fantasy fans would welcome it.