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Magebane (Daw Books Collectors) Mass Market Paperback – October 4, 2011
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About the Author
Born in the mystical mountains of New Mexico, taken on an epic journey from there to the wide-open and oddly named land of Saskatchewan as a child, familiar with both blazing heat and bitter cold, Lee Arthur Chane might have been destined to be a fantasy writer. But in his personal quest to become one, he’s also studied journalism in Arkansas, become a newspaper reporter, photographer and editor, written exhibit copy for a science centre, penned a weekly science column, hosted a television show, and performed professionally as an actor and singer in plays, musicals and operas.
Despite overthrowing kingdoms in his writing, he’s currently a loyal subject of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, residing in Canada with his wife and his own personal pre-teen princess.
See more at: www.leearthurchane.com.
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Nearly a thousand years ago, the MageLords fled a Commoner revolution by transporting themselves to the kingdom of Evrenfels, cut off from the outside world (and those pesky common non-magic folk save those they brought along as handy servants or craftsman or the like) by the Great Barrier, impregnable to magic and to outside interference. And for all that time, they have ruled Evrenfels with the same nonchalant cruelty and arrogance that brought about that first revolution. But the times they are a-changing. Lord Falk--Minister of Public Safety--wants to break down the Barrier and lead the Magelords out to conquer once more. Tagaza, First Mage, also wants the Barrier down, though for reasons of his own. And there is a third, more mysterious figure who desires the same goal, again, for reasons of their own, reasons far different from those of the other two. As those three conspire, the Commoners stuck inside the barrier and treated as slaves or animals by the MageLords are beginning to get restless, as an underground group seems determined to foster resentment and possibly even another revolution.
Meanwhile, beyond the Barrier, the MageLords have dwindled into distant myths and fairy tales as the world has been transformed by democracy and technology. Those two revolutionary concepts will soon breach the unbreachable Barrier in the person of Anton, a young boy who with his Professor mentor flies over the Barrier in the Professor's newly invented airship.
Anton, together with Evrenfell's Prince Karl and Lord Falk's own war--a young woman named Brenna--become catalysts in events that threaten to spiral well out of Lord Falk's tight-fisted control. And matters aren't helped by the seeming appearance of another Magebane--a mythical figure who a millennia ago was able to lead the first Commoner revolution due to its unique power: a Magebane is not only immune to magic, but reflects it back upon its wielders.
Magebane certainly had its flaws and works through some of the usual suspects of character type and plotting, some of which I'll detail later, but overall I enjoyed this read. It was a mostly fluid ride through an interesting set of situations with either likable good characters or interesting not-so-good characters. It didn't wow me; I wish parts of it had been executed a bit more fully or sharply, but it kept me going straight through to a pretty strong ending.
The situations throughout the novel, beginning with its premise, were cleverly constructed and shifty enough to maintain constant interest. I liked the idea of a group of powerful magic-users walled off from the world continuing on in their same old same old culture while the world outside spun on in its own more typical way (I actually wish a bit more had been done with that outside world or the contact between them, but oh well). It's pretty common in fantasy that we're presented with a world about to change, but usually we get it from the "uh oh the Dark Lord is rising against us" side of things and the world is changing because oops, they forgot about the last time the Dark Lord rose and got all complacent or short-tempered with each other and now they've got to put together a spunky outnumbered band of mismatched heroes. Here, though, we get the Dark Lord (kind of) side of things; we get to see him planning the rise and break out. Even better, the Dark Lord has to sneak around and even kill a few fellow Dark Lords to do so. I also like how rather than get a fellowship, err, band together to go on a quest and defeat the DL or destroy an artifact (or get a needed artifact), one of the opponents just literally accidentally drops in. And that's as far as I'll take the Dark Lord because really, Falk and the other MageLords are more like small-minded nasty manor lords who can do magic than Big Evil Floating Eye or Satan-Like Dark Lords.
So anyway, I like the opening premise and the somewhat unusual perspective we get on the world's about to change and who's doing the change and who's going to stop the change. Chane does a nice job as well of shifting this underlying premise around or giving us different slants on it as Falk, Tagaza, and the other person who wants the Barrier down work together but also at odds, each trying to gain an advantage on the other as their goal is the same but not their reasons for their goal or what they want to happen after they achieve their goal. It makes for a richer stew of conspiracy as well as for some unpredictable moments. There's also a very strong and darkly complex thread of "when do the ends justify the means" that runs throughout the book, lending it more substance/depth than some fantasies.
The characters sometimes fall into types: the befuddled young man, the sheltered young girl, the prince who wants to be more than he is and sometimes the plot does as well--the thrown-together-for-a short-time-so-we-must-be-in-love storyline gets its due not once but twice. But for the most part the individuals stand out as individuals. Falk is a great character in his cold analytic nature and single-mindedness. The mysterious ally of his is another complex character, one of those great characters that discomfits the reader. The younger characters: Anton, Brenna, Karl aren't quite as complex or compelling as the adult characters, but all are well-drawn and interesting in their growth, if a bit predictable in that growth.
As stated, there are some flaws, such as the aforementioned character types or plot types. There are a few too many scenes where characters need to act a bit less intelligent than they usually appear in order to progress the plot. The prose is serviceable, but I can't say there are any lines that make you want to stop and reread for their richness or precision or stylistic creativity. To be honest, these were all noticeable enough that I did, um, note them as I read, but they never really detracted over much (save for a few of those acting-too-dumb-then-they-are scenes) from the reading experience. I never dropped out of enjoying the book even while I noted some weaknesses, and the end wrapped up strongly and conclusively. So despite its relatively minor issues, I happily recommend Magebane and I'll certainly give Chane's next one a try based on this one.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. From the first page to the last, it grabbed me and kept me enthralled. This is truly a masterpiece. It is beautifully written and impossible to put down. The story is believable, the characters are relatable, the world feels familiar and the magic is exciting and mysterious. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
All that said, this book does lack finesse. While it was an engrossing book, it's power was diluted by Chane's propensity to "tell" us how it is, rather than have his characters act out the story. The characters, while varied and distinctly fleshed out, were simply too many, and it got a little complex keeping track of all of them. Each character had an obscure reason to do what he did, and it was hard to keep up with each one's desires and motivations. A simpler, stronger set of characters might have worked better to strengthen the narrative. All the threads do tie up in the end (quite a task in itself) but they don't tie up with as much spit and polish as I'd like. I'm hoping though that if Chane, as talented as he appears to be, comes up with other books after this one, I will have no cause to complain.
Most recent customer reviews
`The Professor crouched beside Anton's bed.
"And now I find myself in the same position to help someone else, someone much like I...Read more