Fellion is a Lamplighter, able to provide illumination through magic. A group of rebel Monarchists free her from indentured servitude and take her on a journey to rescue trapped compatriots from an underground complex of mines.
Along the way they get caught up in a conspiracy to kill the latest royal child and wipe out the Monarchist movement for good.
But Fellion has more than just her Lamplighting skills up her sleeve…
Servant Mage is the latest book from veteran SFF author Kate Elliott , and another feather in the Tor/TorDotCom novella cap. The sibling imprints have become something of an expert in releasing novellas that cover broad strokes while focusing in on intimate moments at the same time. Servant Mage fits right into that mold.
One of the things you find when reading this book is the character set is pretty standard for a novella: there are not many characters, and there are even less that get much emphasis in the story. Most of the novellas I have enjoyed have made the main character the focal point of the narrative. Fellion gets that role in Servant Mage and plays it well. Her character is interesting for a few reasons. First, she knows magic but is essentially punished for it by being forced to be a servant. Second, she does not know much about the world around her, having been kept in a bubble for most of her life. Both of these aspects of Fellion’s character turn the journey that she is swept up in into an emotional one. Fellion is more skilled than she knows, but has been repressed for so long that she is incredibly self-conscious about everything she does. While that in and of itself is a bad thing, I enjoy reading about characters who find themselves through experiences; and, while Fellion does not completely puzzle out herself and the world around her she does take steps in that direction. I found her journey to be intriguing.
The other appealing aspect of this book was how the author was able to fit so many relevant themes into so few pages. Classism, power, and oppression are just a few of the topics addressed by the characters and the storyline. I was really impressed at how well everything fit together, though I do wish there was a little more explanation of the magic. There is some detail, but the author really expects the reader to extrapolate based on a few pieces of information.
I do have to say, this is a brutal world Elliott has created. The author does not pull any punches, and there are concepts that are difficult to read about. None of it results in any scenes that are graphic, but the reader should prepare to be emotionally challenged.
Servant Mage is a little book that tells a big story, including themes that are relevant to our world. I recommend fantasy fans give this quick read a try.