Mage’s Blood by David Hair
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Moontide Quartet (Book #1 of 4)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Pages: 704 pages (UK paperback edition)
Published: 27th September 2012 by Jo Fletcher
The first half of Mage’s Blood challenged my patience, but the pay-off—and hopefully the rest of the series—in the second half was bloody rewarding.
Urte is divided into two continents; Yuros in the West, and Antiopia in the East. Both continents are separated by impassable seas, but once every twelve years, the Moontide makes the water sink and revealed the gigantic Leviathan Bridge that links both continents for two years long. The next Moontide is coming in a year, and The Rondian Emperor wants to use this time to rule both continents, but this time the people of Athiopia will be prepared. How many times have you heard this: “If you love Game of Thrones, you will love this,” and how many times have you actually find the books with that recommendation stamped on the front cover to be accurate? Based on my experience, extremely rare. Fortunately, Mage’s Blood, the first book in The Moontide Quartet by David Hair, seems to be rightfully living up to that claim. The Moontide Quartet is an epic fantasy series that’s highly recommended by one of my favorite booktubers—Kitty G—and it has been on my radar for years now, and it is thanks to her that I finally gave this series a go. The result? I overall enjoyed this one very much, and with some caveats, I recommend this to patient epic/historical fantasy readers.
“People do the worst evil when they do not have to take responsibility themselves but can blame others.”
Let’s get the cons out of the way first. If you haven’t started this series and you look to me to settle your decision to whether give this series a go or not, I strongly advise that you have to be patient with this novel. I noticed the average ratings of this book—on both Amazon and Goodreads—are relatively much lower compared to its sequels, although there’s always the fact that sequels tend to have higher ratings because those who continued are usually those who have enjoyed the previous installment, there are several valid reasons why Mage’s Blood is the lowest rated book in the quartet. I have a mixed feeling—mostly negative—towards the first half of the book; I won’t lie, if it weren’t because I own the entire quartet already, I think I would’ve DNFed this book. Similar to many starter installments to an epic fantasy series, Hair takes his time to introduce the world and many characters of the series first, and I usually love this; generally, slow-paced books always worked better for me. Why didn’t this one worked? Hair’s narrative relied a lot on info-dump during the first half of the novel, and it honestly hurt the pacing of the book so much; informations, to me, are harder to register in my head when they’re told in info-dump way.
Thankfully, the pacing issue persisted merely in the first half, and the first half wasn’t all bad because Hair’s characterizations for the cast of characters introduced here was incredible. Mage’s Blood is massive in scope, and it features a lot of characters, but the third-person multi-perspective narration mainly revolves around Alaron, Elena, and Ramita. These characters were incredibly well-fleshed out; they have distinctive voices, different struggles, and I found myself invested in their journey. I loved reading everyone’s POV, but what surprised me the most, though, was Ramita’s story. It was not the direction of the story per se but more like her storyline featured things that I don’t usually enjoy reading; forced arranged marriage which ended up causing a love triangle and abundance of descriptive sex scenes. However, it worked. Hair slowly builds the plot and the tension for every thread that leads towards a brutal climax sequence; the last quarter of Mage’s Blood was a 5-stars rating material.
“I’ve never believed that a man is good or evil. Deeds might be, but men are a summation of their actions and their intentions. Words and thoughts. I have always done what I thought was best.
The world-building of Urte is intricate and brimming with detailed history. Info-dump aside in the first half of the novel aside, I think readers will do themselves good knowing that the world of Urte doesn’t feel like a completely new world; it felt like reading historical fantasy to me. A lot of epic fantasy series have used real-life inspirations, culture, and history and implement them into their world-building, but they were able to twist them into something that felt distinctive like we’re diving into a completely new world. That feeling of escaping into a new world seemed to be missing. The terminologies and implications that Hair utilized were almost a direct copy of our world’s. Ahm from Islam, Shihad from Jihad, Hebusalim from Jerusalem, Shaitan from Satan, holy crusades, then there’s also Shiva, Ganesha, and Parvasi from Indian; these are only a few, there are still so many more like the months, seasons, and days; the list goes on. My point, although it worked well for the story it tells, it did feel to me like we’re reading an alternate historical fantasy that combines Western and Eastern influences effectively, with magic (gnosis) like elemental power, telepathy, and necromancy involved.
“Some enemies come bearing weapons and uttering blasphemies and so you know them. But worse are enemies who come with gifts and gracious deeds. You know them not as foes, until too late.”—Salim Kabarakhi II. Sultan of Kesh. 922
It certainly tested my patience for a while, but the immersive capability of the engaging writing and the superbly written characterizations in Mage’s Blood impressively pulled me into Urte. It’s enormous in scope, and it’s full of flawed-characters that I empathize with; by the end of the novel, I am seriously excited—and terrified—to know what will happen next to the characters of the series. Many bad things have happened, and it seems like their torturous fate has only just begun. I’m moving onto Scarlet Tides immediately.
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