Book name: Ice Mage
Author: Julia Gray
Publication Date: 1998
Star Rating: 4/5
Julia Gray is the pen name of writing team Mark and Julia Smith, who also write as Jonathan Wylie.
Julia Gray is best known for the Guardian Cycle series. Ice Mage is a standalone epic fantasy novel.
Ico and Andrin are lovers, though this is kept a secret because his family live in a hovel and her father is much more well off. They are part of a rebel group called the Firebrands.
The Firebrands use magic to fight off fireworms, which terrorise villages all over Tiguafaya. The remote land is wild and dangerous, with active volcanoes to contend with on top of the fireworms themselves.
The authorities outlaw the unregulated use of magic. This is partly to control the financing of it, and partly to stop the Firebrands from becoming too powerful.
After magic is outlawed, Ico is forced to flee even though Andrin is reeling from the death of his brother during one of the Firebrands’ expeditions.
The ice crystals used by the Firebrands to quell the fireworms are lost to the group, and they must set about rebuilding their numbers and their weapons.
Tiguafaya isn’t just under threat from the land. Pirates have started raiding nearby, and they represent almost as much danger to the citizens as the fireworms.
The Firebrands are courageous and resilient, but the battle that lies ahead for them will prove long and arduous against all their foes.
I loved the descriptions of the natural environment featured in Ice Mage. The volcanoes threatened everyone and provided plenty of danger in the narrative.
However, the aspect of Ice Mage that I liked most came from the ‘linking’ of birds to humans. Ico’s linked bird is sparrow hawk called Soo. They can read each other’s thoughts. I loved the harmony of people with nature that this represented.
Plenty of the Firebrands are linked with birds. Sometimes this is a small as a sparrow. Their enemies have the same powers, too, however. Magpies, for example, with their cunning and love of shiny objects are used by people with greed in their hearts.
This element of Ice Mage was inventive as well as bringing out the sensitive side of some characters’ natures and the ruthlessness of others.
Julia Gray has quite a firm writing style. This meant that some of the story felt a little told rather than shown. However, it was probably a good call in a short book that has a huge story to tell to keep a firm hold on the reins.
The story in Ice Mage could easily have been expanded to a trilogy, so I could understand why Julia Gray wanted to keep everything under control. There was a whole host of characters and the narrative moved from one to another very quickly.
By focusing one exactly what the reader needed to know, the authors were able to deliver the whole, complicated story arc in a comparatively short number of pages.
The governing class was pretty cynical and in Ice Mage it was left to the rebels to fight off foes and help to change their corner of the world for the better. I liked that shift away from the classic fantasy style of kings and nobility. It felt very fresh and welcome.
I hope you've enjoyed my review of Ice Mage by Julia Gray.
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