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The Awakened Mage: Kingmaker, Kingbreaker Book 2

The Awakened Mage - Karen Miller Fizzle fo shizzle. I'll assume that if you're looking at this you have some knowledge of events in book:The Innocent Mage|1051620].

After a promising plotting and world-building start, this duology really falls to pieces in the end. Likable characters from the first volume turn completely unlikable by the second or are just killed off and remain one-dimensionally flat, even though that dimension changes. Couple that with poor, shrill, repetitive, and melodramatic dialogue and you have a recipe for disaster.

Awakened Mage picks up immediately after the stunning conclusion of The Innocent Mage and I'll admit that I was pretty eager to see where the story was going - Morg ascendant and Gar empowered, the royal family all dead and the circumstantial transformation of the friendship that carried most of the first book; what was there not to look forward to? The plotting continues to be the sole saving point of this novel. In spite of some seriously annoying characters and dialogue, you plod through because you HAVE to know what happens.

In spite of whatever she may have been thinking, Miller's frequent reference to the Prophecy that starts this whole business does not aid in that respect. With most stories that involve fate, you expect the surprise twist to how things work out rather than the literal fulfillment of prophecy. Usually, once introduced, the prophecy fades to the background of the story and is only referenced again at the time of completion. To make stories designed around foreshadowing work, you need all the subtlety you can get, and that, unfortunately, is a subtlety Miller lacks. There's a logical inconsistency to her use of prophecy as a plot device that only becomes more and more apparent as you progress. For example, if prophecy foretells events fated by determinism to happen, what use is there of a Circle of Olken devoted to ensuring the fulfillment of prophecy? What idiocy and arrogance to insist absolute belief in the fulfillment of a prophecy while simultaneously believing its your job to make sure prophecy "happens" or that you can do things that will spoil it. On a philosophical scale, it's a stupid idea and Miller's inability to cope with the implications of predestination lead to some pretty unfortunate dialogue choices on the part of characters (most notably Dathne) that become incredibly distracting the more often they're mentioned. Miller also has a tendency to have her characters anthropomorphize Prophecy as if it has a will that changes and desires of its own. I present to you some examples from among the 109 uses of the word "prophecy" in this book (yes, I counted), in all their horrific glory:

"...it seemed Prophecy weren't [sic] outwitted afterall."
"Prophecy was appeased..."
"Prophecy's protected us this far, it won't abandon us now."
"But that's how Prophecy wanted it, and who am I to question Prophecy?"
"I wonder if this is what Prophecy wanted"
"What was Prophecy thinking?"
"Then Prophecy should've thought of a different plan!"
"All things are possible with Prophecy..."

All that's missing is a Forrest Gump cameo on a bunch in the middle of Dorana with a signature "Mama always said, Prophecy is as Prophecy does." One of my favorites was "Prophecy protect us!" By anthropomorphizing prophecy and fate in their dialogue the narrative suggests that prophecy is some fickle thing that can "change its mind" whenever it feels like it to keep things fresh. Indeed, the members of the Olken circle have a religious zealousness in their belief in Prophecy that is as unthinkingly stupid. Unthinkingly stupid as in refusal to use the mental faculties of logic in even ordinary circumstances and instead taking comfort in ideas and thoughts not your own as a means of sheltering you from confronting reality. Dathne in particular combines this zealousness with an unparalleled narcissism that forced me to put the book down several times. Her "How dare you question prophecy!" statements and her "But, but, but ... I'm Jervale's Heir and I'm supposed to do this and that to make sure prophecy gets fulfilled" protestations reminded me of a child throwing a temper tantrum every time she opened her mouth in condescending indignation. Which is not to say you can't have unlikable characters in stories! You absolutely can! Some of the greatest stories have characters that you revile and loathe, which makes their undoing all the more satisfying in the end. But I have the distinct impression that Miller wanted you to feel sympathy for this character, especially given the way Prophecy worked out (wink) and that was out of the question for me by the end of the novel.

And what to make of the Prophecy as a plot device in the final analysis? It adds zero dramatic value. The Olken circle plays absolutely no crucial role in the working out of events whatsoever. Minus the quirk of Gar substituting himself for Asher "laying down his life" there was absolutely no need to harp on Prophecy every other page for over 600 pages. It perhaps would have been better to open with Jervale's prophecy as an epigram, introduced the Olken circle as an organization founded and maintained to witness the final days foretold, and never mention it again till the very end. Dathne's "destiny" as Jervale's Heir is of monumentally zero importance to the overall story. In fact, I don't think she had a single vision that progressed the narrative in any way in the entire second book. In fact, her lines in the story are reduced to complaints that "Prophecy" had abandoned her and frustration at inability to see where any of the events around her were going.

A lot of the backstory Miller fills in about the origins of the interesting social problems in Lur was similarly disappointing. When settling in Lur, Doranen under Barl discovered a protected land with a magical people (the Olken) who were going through a brief period of drought and bad harvests. In exchange for promising to ensure the weather forever, the Olken agreed to never use magic again and demote themselves to second class citizens in their own homeland. Firstly, why the hell would anybody do that? And second, why make them promise to never use magic again in exchange for the weather? The trade is illogical and is a really, really lazy way to explain away legitimate issues of segregation and discrimination that gave Miller's world depth.

Again, I'd give this one star, but I did finish it, so there had to be just enough there for me to keep slogging through this thing. Still, with so much better fantasy out there, why waste your time with this?


Recommendation: Read [b:The Name of the Wind|186074|The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)|Patrick Rothfuss|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1270352123s/186074.jpg|2502879] or [b:The Lies of Locke Lamora|127455|The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1)|Scott Lynch|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320532483s/127455.jpg|2116675] for fantastic plotting, witty dialogue and a more fulfilling pay-off on your time investment.