Mage’s Blood is an immense, complicated, blood-soaked fantasy epic. The scope is inter-continental, and the world building is dense and painstakingly thought out. The characters are sufficiently scarred and battle weary to provide the appropriate mystique, and the set-up is terrific. The descendants of a prophet, gifted with supposedly divine powers, are a specifically designated Mage Class in a theocratic society at odds with another civilization across the sea which is reachable only when a magical bridge appears every 13 years. Then, basically, the crusades happen. The other country is a kind of general Arabia. Oh, and there was a revolution within the empire a while back which ended poorly for the revolutionaries.
It mostly works. As someone who rarely pens more than a school paper or a review such as this one, I’m almost hesitant to criticize someone who has written a novel. A fully realized story set in a world with its own set of rules and brought to fruition – that is what David Hair has done. It’s nothing to sneeze at, and I enjoyed the ride. Then again, I guess that’s the point of writing this.
The truth, is that I found my attention wavering and not infrequently. If I didn’t have a review to write, I might not have made it to the end. I am glad that I did, but I found the prose overblown and the references to real–world events both strained and not particularly relevant. The evil characters are clearly and sometimes eye-rollingly evil, and I never found myself rooting that hard for any of the protagonists. I didn’t really like them.
This isn’t enough to disqualify this book for a true fantasy fan by any means. At its strongest I found it reminiscent of Robert Jordan’s excellent, if meandering, Wheel of Time series, which, in turn, always struck me as one part Dune, one part LOTR, and 2 parts Jordan (and later Sanderson, but I digress). The scale is similar and impressive, and Hair’s ability to bring together multiple plot lines is genuinely impressive.
Whether or not I would have finished this book without outside impetus I don’t really know, but I was satisfied with the story as a whole and intend to read its sequel. But then, I have a lot of time on my hands.