Angel Mage by Garth Nix
More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.
A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.
Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.
But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.
The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else. . .
Just to clarify, that a copy of the book was provided to me for free so I could be part of the blogtour and read it by the time this was happening. I still had one copy on the way, so this is a case of “still in my list, having it for free does nothing”.
I tried to read Sabriel a few years back, but I just couldn’t get to it and was sad to have missed on that bandwagon, because it sounded like a good one. Angel Mage intrigued me, would this be the right book for me?
The answer is yes. I enjoyed it a lot and wanted to keep on reading and even after I finished reading it, it stuck in my head for a few days afterward.
I enjoyed the characters a lot and how you learn more of each as you go, but also, they are not perfect. They are fully human and they each have their quirks, which make them endearing and annoying at times. At moments you just want to grab them by the shoulders and shake them, other times you think “go, go, you’ve got this!”.
And of course I had a soft spot for Dorothea, who I felt closer to and could identify better with than the rest of the cast (though for each of them I could think of someone like them).
Avoiding spoilers but this is like a magical rethinking of Three Musketeers, with names even being close to some fo the ones in Dumas’ original. And the world even though named differently is basically a fantastical Europe (I do wish this hadn’t been the case, as it made it odd. At times it felt fully independent and new world, and then it would be too European, too French).
Now, on to the magic, which is part of what left this book in my head for longer than I expected. I know that to many this magic is pretty new but to me it was a magic that felt too familiar, too close to home. It took me a while to figure out why.
The magic system works on “icons” of the angels and their various levels. You need an icon/image of said angel and then if you need what their scope covers, you may summon them and depending on level/icon quality you can summon for long. Of course, depending on level and use, this also costs you time. Summoning a powerful one means giving at the very least months of your life and ageing instantly. So cost of magic is an important consideration, and in a way, a personal one. How much do you need the magic and is it worth the cost?
What made it familiar is that in Mexico there is a big angel and saints belief system. The magic may or may not be real, but the system is very similar to the one used in Angel Mage. Certain saints can make smaller “miracles” whereas others can make bigger ones (Archangel Gabriel or say, Saint Peter are on the BIG side of the scale). And people carry icons of the entity, either in small stamps or cards, mini gold or silver coins with the likelihood of the saint, or even set up an “altar” to the entity in a room in their home. And you elevate a prayer (similar to the invocation you may have to do for the angels on Angel Mage) to request your miracle. You may even offer something in exchange and usually you are told that there is a cost to it even if you’re unaware of it.
I don’t know if it was the familiarty of the many things in this book that made it a nice read, one I didn’t want to put down, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.
However, as a note, it is a stand alone but it doesn’t feel like one. There is a LOT left out and this makes it feel incomplete, so as a stand alone it doesn’t stand too well and leaves you thinking this was meant to be a duology at the very least.
All in all, an interesting familiar mixed with the new kind of book that was worth reading!