Angel Mage by Garth Nix
Publication date: 17 October 2019
Page count: 560 pages
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
Welcome to my stop on the Angel Mage blog tour! Although I’m a latecomer to Garth Nix’s fantasy books, having only just read Sabriel earlier this year, I was super excited to read his latest book. Angel Mage is his first adult fantasy book, and it’s a proper chunky tome too!
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 knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.
But 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. . .
There is a lot to love about Angel Mage, and I suspect it will delight many of Nix’s fans. The magic system, which feels heavily influenced by Catholicism, is interesting and the world is really fantastic. I particularly enjoyed the history of Ystara, its fall, and the impact that it had on the world.There is so much about this world and the magic that I’d love to have explored a little more, as deep dives into world building and magic systems are my favourite thing in fantasy. I wouldn’t say it was the most unique world building I’ve read, as it is easy to see his influences of The Three Musketeers and real-world religion. However, one of Nix’s strengths is making even the most mundane details, like running messages or training with weaponry, so incredibly fun. He paints such a lovely picture of the world, and I felt like I could walk the streets of Sarance with our characters.
Angel Mage is a book with a number of different POV characters — there are five in total. We get to see the story from the point of view from our four friends: Simeon, Agnez, Dorotea, and Henri. However, my absolute favourite is the fact that a good portion of the book was dedicated to our villain’s point of view. I love an unrepentantly evil female villain and Liliath filled that role perfectly. My other favourite character was Dorotea, our slightly spacey but brilliant scholar and icon maker. I can sometimes struggle with multiple POV characters, so I would have preferred Angel Mage to only follow Liliath and Dorotea’s points of view (or Liliath and another of the friends) because it would have helped dig deeper into these characters. I think the multiple POVs will be a dividing point for some readers.
Angel Mage is a book that doesn’t quite feel like an adult novel — I think instead it will delight YA readers of all ages. Despite its length, it’s a fast-paced fantasy adventure that will get its hooks into you! Although it’s a standalone, I’d really love to read a sequel or another book set in this world.
Want to try Angel Mage for yourself? You can pick it up at the following sites (affiliate links):
Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the epic Angel Mage blog tour, which runs through all of October!