Angel Mage by Garth Nix
Liliath has woken from her hundred year sleep, and is determined to complete the task she set out to do. But first—gather the Refusers, those refugees who fled her home country with her. Find the four chosen and bring them to her. And return to Ystara. To finish her goal.
Damn that blurb sounds fucking awful, right?
Not nearly as cool as the actual blurb, and you feel like you’re missing a key part of the story, like a big, hulking gap is missing for a sense of completion?
Whelp, that’s what reading this entire book was like.
I adored the world-building, which was intriguing and complex and fantastic (and a very neat twist on Christianity what with gift-granting angels), but I constantly felt like I was missing something in the story and the background. Did I read this too fast? Did I miss a key detail somewhere between the pages of descriptions of each room of the New Palace and the Old Palace and the Tower and the streets of Lutrace?
Anywho. I did love the fact that there was a lot of queer representation on page, and a lot of people of color in an alternate European setting.
However, the character development was lacking. It felt like everyone was a caricature and not a fully formed person. Agnez was brash and bold and brave and kinda dumb. Simeon was big and solid and smart and kinda obtuse. Henri was good at math. Dorotea was literally Luna Lovegood. And literally none of them mattered to the plot whatsover, well, besides one. And the kinda romance/really obsession was clunky and creepy.
Liliath didn’t even really matter to the plot, and while I liked the “is she good? is she bad?” thing that was going on, I felt that withholding the twist until the final 20 pages was a huge mistake in the pacing of the book because it removed all of Liliath’s motivations. Why was she acting the way she was? What was the point? How was she tied to the Ash Blood Plague and the beastlings and the Refusers? (Okay, the blurb spoils literally the entire thing but that’s not really mentioned at all in teh book, just that she wants to restore Palleniel and bring back Ystara). What happened to Palleniel and why the fuck did it matter? What was the point of the other angels at all or even the whole aging thing?
So there were a lot of moving pieces and none of them felt wholly fleshed out, and you could probably skip from pages 100-400 and not miss much at all plot wise. It felt like a key chunk was missing, and that meant that I just wasn’t motivated to read it. I probably would have put this down as a DNF if this hadn’t been a buddy read.
Long story short: read this if you’re intrigued by angel magic and alternate European worlds with people of color, queer rep and magic zombie beasts.
Avoid like hell if you loved Sabriel and were hoping to find something similar to that magic, or if you like a book with a tight plot.