Rating : 3.5 out of 5 stars
Another new fantasy from one of my favorite authors, and another new world. This is a present day alternate reality, where magic is real, but only those born to it have the power to manipulate it. But those in authority, the guilds, hold almost absolute domination over all magic users; their overt reason is to protect the non-magic public, but privately, it is to keep control of their dominion.
Toby Jones was a young man who was just starting to come into his powers. Unfortunately, the guild officers were unable to find which element of the Arcana his magic fit, and unable to identify the correct channel, his wild magic literally exploded out of him, causing destruction to everything around, and eventually would destroy him as well. He was being treated with a painful last ditch attempt to find his element, and when that was unsuccessful, the guild gave up on him, and assigned him to euthanasia for the safety of the community.
Toby was not going to accept his death that easily. He heard a name, Darius Valstad, mentioned by the guild officers while in the near-unconscious state from his last explosion. He escaped from the guild complex, and, using a little google-fu, he tracked the man down to his house on the hill, and showed up in the last throes of exhaustion, literally collapsing at Darius’s front door.
Darius is older, perhaps in his early 40s (I don’t think it was specifically mentioned). He was a celebrated mage, one of the best of his generation, and he knew it. He was a teacher, a mentor, and was known for taking on difficult cases, like Toby’s, and bringing them safely to the knowledge of their element so they could function in the wider magical society. Until his hubris led him to work with one extremely powerful, but extremely disturbed young woman, and when her magic exploded, it killed her and almost destroyed the entire city of Pittsburg. Attempting to stop the destruction almost killed Darius, and left him scarred both physically and mentally, and also led to his expulsion from the guild. The last thing he wanted was to go through all that again with a young man who might easily be more powerful and destructive than his last student.
Toby, however, was both determined and persuasive, and convinced Darius to take him on as a pupil through a combination of kindness and service and appealing to Darius’s innate desire to protect. They were in danger both from Toby’s magic, and from the guild, who were not about to let a rogue mage put the city in jeopardy again. As Darius emerged from his self-imposed exile, he found old friends who joined in his mission, as they worked against the clock to channel Toby’s magic before the guild could capture him. The final showdown was dramatic and satisfying, and clearly points to a sequel.
The relationship between the two men was extremely complicated. Darius was older, more powerful, and took on the role of protector and teacher, although unwillingly. Toby was young and fairly immature, but with an innocence and lust for life that Darius could only admire, and it eventually brought Darius back to life as well. But the age and power gap made me feel uncomfortable with their romance, and I had a hard time believing in it. I think I would have preferred if there was no romance in the book at all, I would have enjoyed it just as much. I also felt the characters were not fully developed, or at least not enough for me to connect with them. The major and minor arcana were interesting, and there was some explanation of how they worked, but not quite enough, and also not enough about how magic was used in the world. And finally, the apparently common practice of sexual relations between mentors and students was a little off-putting to me.
Despite that, I did enjoy the book, and I will be looking forward to the next one. I hope that this world will be more fleshed out so I can connect with it better, and that I will come to believe in Toby and Darius relationship more than I did with this one.
Cover art by Tiferet Design is exactly how I imagined Toby to look while caught up in his wild magic
Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon
ebook, 194 pages
Expected publication: May 7th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language English
Series The Web of Arcana #1