Book Review: Angel Mage by Garth Nix

Angel Mage

Author: Garth Nix

Publication Date: 30 September 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 560

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

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. . .

This was my first foray into Garth Nix’s writing, and Angel Mage was so much more than I was expecting. While this book is technically YA, it definitely reads more like adult high fantasy.

I was initially drawn to this story because of the angels and magic. I am such a sucker for these two plotlines in fantasy. I enjoyed Nix’s spin on this concept where Mages could summon angels through the use of handmade icons or tokens in order to gain access to the magic that they possess. However, summoning angels comes at the cost of one’s life force, so the Mages prematurely age. Well, that is usually the case unless your Liliath, who has discovered a way to avoid paying this cost making her a dangerous threat.

This is definitely a slow-burn fantasy since the majority of the story really focuses on both the world building as well as the characters. I found the world building to be fantastic with the angels, magic, sprawling cities, and political turmoil. I thought that Liliath was an incredible antagonist and probably one of my favorites. However, the other characters of the story felt like they lacked depth in comparison. I usually enjoy slow burns, but I had a hard time really getting inspired by this story since it takes well over 400 pages to finally get to the adventure side of things.

Overall, I think the Angel Mage has fantastic world building and magic, and it is definitely worth a read.

Thank you to Wunderkind PR for providing a finished copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

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