Aram Raythe has the power to challenge the gods. He just doesn’t know it yet.
Aram thinks he’s nothing but a misfit from a small fishing village in a dark corner of the world. As far as Aram knows, he has nothing, with hardly a possession to his name other than a desire to make friends and be accepted by those around him, which is something he’s never known.
But Aram is more. Much, much more.
Unknown to him, Aram bears within him a gift so old and rare that many people would kill him for it, and there are others who would twist him to use for their own sinister purposes. These magics are so potent that Aram earns a place at an academy for warrior mages training to earn for themselves the greatest place of honor among the armies of men: dragon riders.
Aram will have to fight for respect by becoming not just a dragon rider, but a Champion, the caliber of mage that hasn’t existed in the world for hundreds of years. And the land needs a Champion. Because when a dark god out of ancient myth arises to threaten the world of magic, it is Aram the world will turn to in its hour of need.
I was first introduced to Dragon Mage by one of my blog cohorts, David S. When I saw the very large, self-published adventure fantasy with the giant dragon on the cover… I was all in. My initial excitement was only exacerbated by some of the great reviews that were floating around about the book. Needless to say, expectations were high; and, spoiler alert: Dragon Mage does not disappoint.
To start, this is definitely a character-driven fantasy book. Aram and Markus are the two main protagonists, and they get the majority of page time. Markus is a great character. He is loyal, smart, and strong. Aram could not ask for a better friend and companion. But, I want to be really clear: this is Aram’s story. And what an emotional journey it is! Aram’s narrative is full of adventure and constant turmoil. When I think of everything he goes through in the book, I am reminded of a quote from my favorite author, Brent Weeks, who once said something about writing his main protagonist by imagining them in the worst situation possible and then making it even harder (I paraphrase because I cannot find the exact quote). I had this in the back of my mind the whole book, because Aram is put through the ringer. And because he is such a likable and relatable character it really hits home. Aram is described on the author’s website as having “the heart of a hero”, a characterization I definitely agree with.
Dragon Mage at its core is about Aram’s growth and perseverance. Themes of love, friendship, and loyalty show themselves to be extremely important to the narrative, as well, as they relate to the relationships in the story. I mention Aram’s growth, and while this does reference his magical powers, he has a lot of personal growth, as well. Making friends, navigating social situations, dealing with conflict, and learning more about himself are all pieces of Aram’s character development displayed in the book.
Author ML Spencer does not skimp on the dragons, either. Big dragons, little dragons, some more powerful than others. Certain groups of warriors are dragon riders and create pretty serious bonds with them. I am not going to go into this too much because of spoilers, but I wanted to mention it because it is a really cool part of the book.
Another huge positive aspect of Dragon Mage is magic system, though I use the term “system” loosely. Again, this is not something I want to get into too deeply, but suffice to say Spencer does a great job with balancing the magic in the book. I have always been a “describe your magic system in detail to me” kind of guy, but Spencer does not do that here and I love it. There are descriptions of how it works and the reader gets to see it in action, but the grainy details are not present which actually leaves some of it to the reader’s imagination. I enjoyed that in this book, and I was able to create a vision that was vivid and graphic. I do not know if this would have worked in other stories, but it goes a long way in Dragon Mage. And the way the magic is described is quite unique, to the point where I even found myself imagining it and saying to myself, is this actually how magic works in every story and I have had it wrong the whole time? I absolutely loved this aspect of the book.
In my opinion, if there is anything that could have been done differently, it is the way the book is edited. There are a few sections where I thought a word was overused (“cup”, for example, in one chapter). Another example is a scene where the author describes something as a rivet, but says it pushes things apart as opposed to holding them together. But, that is exactly what a rivet does: fasten things together. A better choice of word could have been made in that situation. On a macro scale, there are times when dialogue and actions were skipped over in favor of summary language (paraphrasing: “Aram told them all about his journey” vs letting the characters around him ask questions and let things unfold that way). I find this to be really interesting, because I think these scenes could have been expanded upon – which is a really weird thought to have about an 800+-page book, but I would have rather had those situations detailed and maybe split it into two 500- to 600-page books. These are the types of things that would pull me from being immersed in the story at times and are not meant as direct criticisms of Spencer, as I think the writing is really great. For me, these are small things that good editing can polish.
Overall, Dragon Mage is a great book! The plot is adventurous, the characters are relatable, the journey is emotional, and the story is full of magic and dragons. Highly recommended for fans of fantasy everywhere. I was just notified by the author that there are plans for a sequel, and I am really excited to hear the news! Looking forward to Aram and friends’ next journey.
I also happen to have a signed paperback copy to giveaway! Just leave a comment below to be entered. Open to US residents, only. Closes February 25th at 6:29 AM CST. Good luck!