Angel Mage by Garth Nix
Published October 17th by Gollancz
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. . .
First of all, I want to say a huge thank you to Stevie and the wonderful people at Gollancz for sending me an advanced copy of this book and for having me on this book tour. I vaguely remembered reading Sabriel (also my Garth Nix) when I was younger and enjoyed it even if I started going to music concerts and sitting in the park with my friends instead of reading not long after and didn’t end up reading any more of the series. Still, as a result, when I heard Mr Nix was releasing a young adult book with an interesting magic system I was instantly interested.
The magic system is indeed really fascinating and described fairly well and in an easy to understand way while still being interesting and leaving room for loopholes here and there. The idea that icons with depictions of different levels of angels allowed mages to summon them for aid with varying costs in the currency of said mages own lifeforce feels quite unique but familiar and I enjoyed each piece of information we were given about them and the tolls and aspects of different angels.
The world-building too was done brilliantly and was my favourite aspect of the book. The world felt very easy to visualise as did the different governing bodies, military forces and general existence as a whole. I liked that with the cardinal essentially in power by way of having the ear of the Queen alongside her force of musketeers (led by a female Dartaghtan) it had a real Three Muskateers feel to parts of it even if the resulting story was very different.
Unfortunately, the plot and pacing felt terribly clunky for the most part. A plot doesn’t always have to be fast-paced obviously but usually, when that’s the case it’s because the book is very character-driven and I don’t know if it was because we had four main characters AND the “big bad” as POV parts but it didn’t feel like especially character-driven either. There are some interesting moments for sure and I did like the characters, Doretea especially but I would have liked more character building with them and maybe less insta-friendship although I do understand the circumstances behind it.
One last thing that I noticed and absolutely wanted to praise and shout about was the fact that a lot of prominent characters who when named or mentioned I would often assume were male were female which was very refreshing. The Cardinal and the Queen who hold the highest power were both female, there was a good amount of gender-neutral language throughout and no-one batting an eyelid at anyone’s differing sexual preferences. Not to mention that all of this just felt organic which was honestly just *chefs kiss* and a standard I would love to see in more books instead of having female, queer and/or POC characters slotted in for the sake of it.
Overall it was still an enjoyable read despite its faults, I don’t think it helps that I’m having trouble getting through longer books at the moment either and this is not a particularly short book. Angel Mage by Garth Nix is out now and definitely worth a read if it sounds like it might be your kind of thing.