[Book Review] Battlemage – Stephen Aryan

Title: Battlemage
Author: Stephen Aryan
Published by: Orbit
Publication date: 22nd Sept 2015
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 512
Format: Paperback
Source: TBR/Private Collection
Series: The Age of Darkness Trilogy

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Blurb/Synopsis

I can command storms, summon fire and unmake stone, Balfruss growled. It’s dangerous to meddle with things you don’t understand.

Balfruss is a battlemage, sworn to fight and die for a country that fears and despises his kind.

Vargus is a common soldier — while mages shoot lightning from the walls of the city, he’s down in the front lines getting blood on his blade.

Talandra is a princess and spymaster, but the war may force her to risk everything and make the greatest sacrifice of all.

Magic and mayhem collide in this explosive epic fantasy from a major new talent.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Battlemage is an epic fantasy saga, featuring swords and sorcery in epic scenes of pitched battle. With a narrower focus on a handful of interesting characters; Balfruss, the battlemage. Vargus, the long-suffering foot soldier with a hidden secret and Talandra, princess and spymaster. All colliding against a common enemy in the form of The Warlock and his Splinters; mages wielding strange powers, with only destruction in their hearts. The first book in the The Age of Darkness series.

Battlemage was a great book to start the year with. An uncomplicated plot of good vs evil, with a healthy dose of all the wonderful things you expect from a fantasy novel. Magic, swordcraft, dastardly rulers, downtrodden mercenaries and uppity nobility! I enjoyed it every step of the way for it’s easy-to-turn pages, simplistic, understandable plot line; and the delicacies hidden within and relatable characters.

Balfruss is one of our lead characters. One of six battlemages that have answered the call to arms of the King of Seveldrom to fight against the oppressive army of Emperor Taikon; who has his sights set on conquering the world. Via the use of his own battlemages. Balfruss is an engaging character to follow, through him we gain insight into the cultures of other nations and his fellow battlemages as well as an understanding of the ways in which magic is wielded in this world-setting. He is an upright citizen of Seveldrom, doing what is right for his kin alongside his fellow battlemages. His interactions and empathy helps the reader to develop attachments to the battlemages around him and see’s him solving the problems in which they face, be it personal or during their battles against Taikon’s armies.

While the mages fight on the ramparts, Vargus, mercenary veteran fights on the field. Vargus was my personal favourite of the handful of characters on offer. Rugged, world-weary, battle-worn and resilient. With a handful of secrets up his sleeve, he’s complicated and I adored him for it! His characterisation and the way he’s written and interacts with the other mercenaries fighting at his side is wonderful. Word of him and his brotherhood spreads throughout the armies as he inspires a different sort of warriors camaraderie, one of close kinship – which makes many of the events surrounding him devastating. The sections of the book that featured him passed by in moments.

The pacing of the novel is solid. No part is lacking and all is pushed forward with a steady momentum towards the novel’s conclusions. As with all battles, there are lulls in combat, but these sections are filled with interpersonal dramas which prevent the book from turning dull. And the writing style is easy and casual to read, resulting in a steady-paced novel that comes to its natural conclusion with relative ease.

However, it’s nothing ground breaking. The story relies on tried and tested tropes and doesn’t bring much to the table that is groundbreaking. There’s a mad ruler in Emperor Taikon. The mages are trained in a tower and are seen as dangerous tools. The political intrigue in uprisings behind the scenes. It’s all been done before; and for good reason. They’ve been combined well here, too. Making Battlemage a solid read, if you’re looking for something safe. Yes, there are scenes that are a bit disturbing, so I don’t mean safe as in free-from unpleasantries. I mean, you know what you’re going to get. Swords, magic and politics, combining nicely in a predictable plot.

I would have liked to see a bit more world-building in the novel. There’s a larger world hinted at in the novel; talk of Gods and religion, the truth behind the mage’s powers, and a training tower that has fallen to ruin. There are little glimpses given of different, interesting, cultures to explore, but I feel like we only just scratch the surface of these tempting morsels. Maybe, these are given in the next instalments of the series; but in my brief explorations of blurbs, it appears we’re given a new set of characters to follow so I am unsure how interested I am in continuing. I became rather attached to the characters in Battlemage and it feels like a waste not to revisit them.

Summary

A good book to start the New Year with. An epic fantasy saga that is an easy, casual read with solid pacing and characters. Epic scenes of battle with both magic and sword complete a novel which also offers political intrigue and in-depth characters.

2 responses to “[Book Review] Battlemage – Stephen Aryan”

    • Thank you.

      It’s a good read, with great characters.
      A bit more depth than the usual good vs evil fantasy novel, certainly.

      Thanks for commenting.
      Jenn

      Like

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