Review: Mage Errant series + Book #5 – The Siege of Skyhold


Series Rating – 7.5/10

Books in Series:

#1 – Into the Laybrinth
#2 – Jewel of the Endless Erg
#3 – A Traitor in Skyhold
#4 – The Lost City of Ithos
#5 – The Siege of Skyhold

To start with, the only books I consider ‘absolute fun’ are Cradle and Murderbot, and this book fits right in with them!

Mage Errant series is a light and fun coming of age adventure read that’ll definitely leave you with a smile. It certainly sticks to the many of the tropes commonly found in this genre, but what sets it apart is the unique worldbuilding and over the top colorful characters. Unlike the dark, gritty, realistic worlds that are more popular in current times, this transports to a magical world which just invokes wonder and fun and will bring forth a unadulterated sense of adventure. It’s good old fashioned fun read that’ll take you back in time!  The series progressively gets better and better with every book …. leading to a smashing climax at end of (soon to be released) Siege of Skyhold…that has already me clamoring for the (yet to be written) book 6!

John’s writing style is magically subtle and it has a flow to it that’ll just grasp and drag you in without you realizing that you’ve been in a thrall till the book ends. The vein of underlying humor enhances the sense of adventure multifold making it a pure joy to read.

The World

The book is set in the world of Anastis. It has multiple continents (Ithonian, Cloudspine etc) and multiple cities in each continent. To make this more interesting, we also have a Dimensional angle the world. We have extra dimensional storage devices; there are hints about characters moving to other dimensions and extra-dimensional entities meddling in Anastis which raises the stakes considerable and adds a lot of intrigue to the world.

The world has “Powers” which can be powerful mages or sentient magical creatures. Then there are the “Great Powers” who obviously are super powerful. Some of these Powers and Great Powers rule cities, some just wander around the world, others are kept sleeping as they could be a danger to entire world if awake. The ever shifting political sands of alliances and bickering’s between these powers makes for a fascinating plot to devour. Now, author has taken this a step further adding fascinating races to these. Kanderon Cruz is a Sphinx, Indris Stormbreaker is a major Dragon, Illinia Kaen Das is a human Stormmage, Chelys-Mot is a wandering Turtle, Heliothrax is a bad ass Sunmaw etc. Then you add on Demons, Imps, Gorgons, Griffins, liches and the like and you end up with a world that is populated with the most diverse and fascinating creatures I’ve ever read in a single series! Plus characters with super cool bad ass names. Aedon Dragonslayer, Artur Wallbreaker, Sulessa Tidecaller each of them legendary on their own merit and capable of awe inspiring actions. Bow when these “great Powers” got to war, we get some absolutely spectacular over the top action scenes that will make Michael Bay will drool in anticipation.

 The magic system is also quite unique and complex, with affinities, attunements, contracts all available and a truly staggering variety all the way from the usual, elemental mages to whimsical dust mages. The variety of magic you’ll come across in here is again unparalleled in any other series I’ve read. There’s no “theoretical structure” that you can fit the magic in making this so much more fun as the unexpected keep popping up frequently.

Book 5 – The Siege of Skyhold

Synopsis:

The Havath Dominion is marching to war.

Humiliated in the ruins of Imperial Ithos, the Exile Splinter stolen from their grasp by the ancient sphinx Kanderon Crux, Havath’s Duarchs have assembled an army that dwarfs the entire population of Skyhold. Led by their Great Powers, monsters and mages individually capable of leveling a city, they pose a threat that even Kanderon, one of the mightiest of Great Powers, and her equally monstrous allies might be unable to stop.

As the Havathi forces push closer and closer to Skyhold, Hugh and his friends train relentlessly, hoping to make a difference in the oncoming siege. While they venture into dangerous realms of untested experimental magic, though, they’re already caught up in currents far beyond their control.

Once you’re a pawn in the games of the Great Powers, there’s no escape

Review:

The book picks up nicely from end of Book 4 and we see the conflict between Kanderon and Havathi Empire coming to a head. As the blurb says, the Havathi’s have mounted a massive invasion and despite all the spying and advance preparations, the invalid force dwarves anything anyone including Kanderon expected, leaving Skyhold in a desperate battle to survive against overwhelming odds.

This is actually a book of two parts. The first 70% is all about the Siege itself, the preparations and the anticipation. It’s kind of a slow burn which fits the psych of people in Skyhold as news filters about their mounting losses in initial engagements and progressive dampening of morale of its residents. People are scared, they are losing hope by the day. This has a more serious impact on our group of protagonists. The battle in Imperial Ithos at end of book 4 has made them realize the harsh realities of real life conflicts. The brutal truths about killing and getting near-killed themselves turns them from happy adventure seekers to a more jaded veterans as they seek to battle their internal fears and doubts. The transition is done really well, and we get to see our team debating the necessity of dubious ethics and morality associated with their fight and macro situation across the world. They realize that the line between good and evil isn’t as clear cut as their believed and stress of their actions having fallen into the grey area in-between takes its toll on them. Though we get some classic battles in-between, the pacing is a bit heavy and slow. Though it fits the overall feel of the book, in hindsight this could have been tightened up and made more taut.

The last 30% makes up for the pacing of the early segments as the battle begins. Then the roller coaster ride begins and we get pages and pages of glorious actions and epic battle scenes…oh, loved it! This is probably the epic-est of the battle scenes in the series and we get tons of Great Powers going at each other. Brilliant chaos. Most of the previously names Great Powers and some new ones go all out. The scale of fight is truly massive and has everything a battle loving adrenalin junkie reader like me could hope for.

At the end…let’s just say both the plot direction and decision of the author left me speechless in bittersweet surprise. Definitely NOT what I’d have expected from John or from the Mage Errant’s. I can’t wait for the next book. Get cracking, John!  

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