Angel Mage by Garth Nix – REVIEW
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 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…
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Gollancz.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
“You’re halfway to being a Musketeer! Probably as close as you’ll ever get, but still!”
Angel Mage is my very first Garth Nix book so I can’t compare it to his other works but I found it a fun interpretation of The Three Musketeers with a great magic system and memorable characters. The idea of angelic magic being harnessed by humans was incredibly interesting and I loved how the method and history of icon design was explored. I could have read a book set just in the Belhalle focusing on the scholars and their research. I was a little confused at first (as I often am with any fantasy introducing a new magic system) but most things quickly became clear and I was able to simply enjoy the book.
“You betray a complete ignorance of the mathematics of chance, Agnez.”
The characters of Simeon, Agnez, Henri, and Dorotea, and their sibling-like relationship was probably my favourite element of the story. Each was fleshed-out and unique, with very different skill sets and personalities. Yet, like a family, they shared a close bond whilst also endlessly teasing and challenging each other. Rochefort was another complex character but I felt her story wasn’t explored quite enough. I did enjoy her growing closeness to Dorotea though. The epilogue gives a sense of closure for the group but leaves it open for any potential new adventures and I’d love to catch up with them all in five years time.
“I suppose there might be real treasure…As a librarian suggested to me. Long-lost books and papers…”
Unfortunately, I did have a couple of issues with the book. Firstly, Refusers are treated as the lowest members of society, forming an underclass often deemed disposable and less than human. This allowed for some thought-provoking questions to be raised but they weren’t taken any further and thus this plot thread lacked emotional power. The main issue I had with this story though was the pacing. Due to most of the action taking place in the final fifty pages, the rushed ending was anti-climactic and the threat posed by Liliath seemed to just fizzle out. Nevertheless, the humour, unique magic system, and fantastic characters ensured I enjoyed this story overall and would recommend to fantasy fans.