Novel: The Index Book 1: Mages
Author: Katherine Gilraine
There is an old belief that if you throw someone who doesn’t know how to swim into the deep end of a swimming pool, they will learn very fast. After they get over the initial trauma, they may even enjoy the activity. Reading Mages is quite a lot like this.
From page one you are thrown into a complex magical world of politics and characters where not only do things work differently from the world you know, but differently from any fantasy world you know. In sort, Gilraine creates a completely new universe for her story to unfold in. It is refreshingly original and creative, but the price you pay for that is being sent to a strange, new land with no map or compass. But then, this is often par for the course if you’re a reader of fantasy – most of us went through it with Lord of the Rings, and happily so.
If you do find your way out of the first two chapters, you get richly rewarded with emotionally charged drama and tonnes of fast-paced action told with a flair and unpredictability that keeps you turning pages.
The events in the book take place after the fall of an evil sorcerer-like character called The High Mage. A trio of heroes who have been fighting against his supporters decide to take a breather on present-day Earth. Like a decent bad guy though, The Mage manages to still make things complicated and before long, the heroes find themselves back in the thick of things.
Mages may take you to unfamiliar stars, but it doesn’t abandon you there. At its centre, this is a story that revolves around relationships between people. They may be fantastical people with super-powers but they are still challenged by ideas such as loyalty, trust, love and forgiveness. By the end you are quite certain that perhaps their strange (and originally, daunting) universe is not so different from our own after all.
Mages is the author’s first novel, and as such one gets the feeling she is still developing her style and writing strategy. Her characters often find themselves asking, “What now?”, not only of the situation but, one feels, of the author. Nevertheless, I take it as a good sign that when I reached the end of this, the first novel in the series, I also found myself asking desperately, “What now?”
I look forward to finding out in Gilraine’s next endeavour.
Summary: Despite finding yourself in a position of sink or swim at the start of this novel, I’d say try swim… it will be worth it.
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