Angel Mage by Garth Nix (book review).

Imagine a world where if you are blessed with the gift and have a great need you can call on actual angels to help you. This is just such a world where angels are called on to protect people from infection, help with tasks and even protect cities from attack. The down side to this magical assistance is that when you ask for help from an angel you must pay with some of your lifetime.

Easier tasks done by lower level angels might cost you 5 minutes of your life, whereas larger tasks by the highest level angels will cost you years. Then there are people who can’t call on angels but are able to create the magical icons needed to call on angels. These are beautiful objects made from all manner of materials and painted with the angels likeness. Sounds like a lovely place to live right?

Now I need to tell you about what can go wrong when you use angels. If you manage to mess things up then you might possibly come up with something called the Ash Plague which happened to the people of Ystara. For them, angel magic has the ability to turn their blood to ash or turn them entirely into a beastling!

Into this wonderful and terrifying world strides Liliath, a centuries old angel mage who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. She knows she needs the help of four special Sarancians Simeon (a trainee doctor), Henri (a fortune hunter), Agnez (a musketeer) and Dorotea (an icon painter). These four, along with many others, will take the brunt of Liliath insatiable need to get exactly what she wants.

Wow, that was a lot of introduction to this book, can you tell I loved it?

Throughout ‘Angel Mage’ by Garth Nix, we get lots of different points of view from the four Sarancians (Sarance and Ystara are countries similar to France and Spain respectively) along with Liliath. I enjoyed hearing their different personalities come through in their different segments. They really are all very different people.

My favourite character was probably Dorotea, but it’s really hard to pick as I loved them all. The four were just such a great little found family, they even refer to each other as brother and sister during the book. Talking about characters, I loved that there were so many women and people of colour in this book. But this was done so lightly, not shoved in your face. People in this book weren’t characterised by their gender or race, it was just part of them which I really loved.

The way this book is written makes it feel a little like a historical French novel. You can tell that the city is meant to be somewhere very like Paris, plus there are musketeers! Oh, there are some great maps in this book which really help with giving the places mentioned some reference points. As far as I can tell the maps were actually created by Garth Nix himself which added a little something extra to my mind.

The magic system is such an easy one to understand, it’s just complex enough to be interesting but not too much that you’re completely lost through. I would have loved to have some kind of list of the different levels of angel and maybe some descriptions of the ones mentioned in the book. I appreciated that Nix didn’t try too hard creating a weird a wonderful magic system, he just stuck with something that made sense with a small amount of world building.

Overall, I completely loved this book and I’m a little annoyed that it’s a standalone. I do wish Nix would consider writing even a few little short stories or novellas set in this world.

Sarah Bruch

November 2019

follow me @shelbycat

(pub: Gollancz, 2019. 486 page enlarged paperback. Price: £18.99 (UK only). ISBN: 978-0-8578-2701-2)

check out websites: www.gollancz.co.uk and www.orionbooks.co.uk

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