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I like big books.

The Innocent Mage: Kingmaker, Kingbreaker Book 1

The Innocent Mage - Karen Miller I'm pretty torn up on this one. I like it more than the rational part of my mind has any right allowing me to. While not exactly riddled with flaws, there are a fair number of weak points that distract from an otherwise compelling narrative set in a rather interesting world, with a fairly interesting lead character.

Complaints:

1. There're some damn annoying characters in this book. I debated with myself whether it was just really great characterization on Miller's part or if she just couldn't do anything with them for a long time. In life, one finds all sorts, including self-centered egotistical sorts who believe that the universe unfolds around them as if they were the only being in possession of a consciousness and condescending discriminatory bastards who see the world through a filter of orthodox superiority. Miller nails these characters so well that they produce a pretty violent emotional reaction when they cross the page. The problem is that they cross the page all too frequently and in some cases make characters you're supposed to sympathize with very difficult to sympathize with. Dathne is probably the worst of these. Miller is quite clearly building up the character to play a pivotal good role, but after this initial installment I still maintain Lur would benefit from her falling out a tower stain glass window.

2. Prophecy - with a capital P. Prophecy is anthropomorphized banally and used as a go-to justification for character behavior and pseudo-tension without any form of subtlety at all. Not just that, but the logic of prophecy and fate was clearly not well-thought out by Miller in throwing this story together. An entire secret society exists to "help" prophecy along; to fulfill it, if you will. But isn't a prophecy something that's going to happen anyway, no matter what anybody does about it? This plays up Dathne's self-importance noted above. The woman thinks she's "responsible" for the fulfillment of prophecy and has several dumb lines about it being HER responsibility to make sure that prophecy is fulfilled and berates herself for "failing" to see prophecy carried out in moments of self-doubt. These scenes are juxtaposed with others where she is devoutly passive when it comes to accepting the will of the universe. In other words, the internal character logic is as flawed as the use and understanding of the concept of fate is in the narrative.

Other than that...the book has its high points. I think the pacing is exceptionally well done and for all the one-dimensionality of some of the supporting cast of characters, there is a depth and resonance to the friendship between Asher and Gar that you get emotionally invested in. There are no shades of grey though. Good characters have very few flaws in this story that you end up willing to completely overlook and bad guys don't seem to have very many redeeming qualities whatsoever. The social milieu and racial tension of Lur is well done and I think the backstory was pretty well thought out as well. Intriguing enough for a run at the second book at least, though I'm not optimistic.