Monday, September 5, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: Magemother (A Series Review)

Week 33: A book by an author under 30

The Magemother series is a middle grade fantasy written by Austin J. Bailey. The gorgeous cover artwork is eyecatching, and the premise, well, the premise of misfit girl being summoned to another world and uncovering her true past could be either totally lame or really work well. The first book was (and at the time of this publication still is) free, so I figured, what did I have to lose? 

 The Mage and the Magpie

This book was free on Amazon and had high reviews. Honestly, I usually pick up freebies with high reviews so I can give an honest negative review. Many people seem to think that if they like a book, it deserves five stars. Five stars, imo, should be reserved for the most excellent, memorable, standout books. Not every single book you read.

Sometimes, though, books deserve the praise. I was surprised to find that I actually enjoyed this book. The characters were well developed, the search was enjoyable, and since we're in an unfamiliar world there are lots of surprises. Some things that I think were supposed to be "reveals" were obvious to me, but others were not.

I haven't quite figured out how I feel about the magic in this series.  I think magic is neutral and you use it for good or bad, like you would a car, and it seems like the mages and apprentices possess their particular magic. Like a gift. I don't think that the wind mage's apprentice could learn the magic of the metal mage. In this world, magic is either something you have or something you don't. If you have it, but are not a mage or mage apprentice, I'm not sure what you do. That's never addressed in the series.

I liked this book so much that I immediately looked the author up and signed up to receive updates from him. I received Magemother 1.5 as a "thank you."

4.5 stars

The Empty Throne

This is a novella, not a full length novel. It was offered as a "thank you" gift for signing up to receive updates from the author.

It is a very short and quick read, but it is an important link in the story. If you don't read this, there will be things you scratch your head at in later books trying to figure out if missed something.

While I didn't find this short story as compelling as the larger series narrative, I still thought it was important and highlighted the vulnerable side of Tabitha. It also makes the reader think about how they would respond if they had to go through Tabitha's test.

4 stars

The Paradise Twin

Book 2 largely focuses on finding the hidden mages and on Hugo's struggle with Molad. And there's a dragon. Dragon's are always fun, right?

In Hugo you really get that Jekyll and Hyde feel. His struggle is real, and it's easy to empathize with him. The search for the hidden mages was not as compelling, though, and almost became tedious at times. I had guessed part of Chantra's location, Unda's hiding place was obvious to me, but Lignumis' was well done.

In this book that I started feeling like the series was very similar to the Farworld series by J. Scott Savage.* A lot of necessary things happened in this book, but overall is wasn't as compelling as the others in the series. It moved things along, but I didn't feel anyone particularly developed as a character.

3 stars

The Bridge to Nowhere

This book was very interesting - and not entirely happy. There were a couple moments where I was actually surprised at something truly bad/sad happenings. Realism! I like books that have happy endings, but when absolutely everything works out perfectly as planned, it is eye-roll worthy. You see more development in Brinley and Hugo, others hold their own, and there are a couple flat characters. Some "twists" in the book I saw coming, but the intended audience would largely find them unexpected.

The Hugo/Molad struggle continued, and while it certainly felt real at times, there was one point very near the end in a major moment (trying for no spoilers!) where the reaction seemed a little extreme. But I understand why the author wrote it that way.

There is a meeting with the gods of their world, near the end of the book, and it rather felt like a huge aside. I got it - and they had showed up in other books - but the direction they promise really hadn't been there the whole series, so it didn't feel quite genuine. They also appear to be modeled after the Mormon view of God - being God and his wife who live in another world, but sometimes interact with us. The moral underpinnings in what they say are close to what I believe as a Christian, but the framework is wrong. Not everyone will agree, but I thought I'd mention it for those who want to have conversations with their children about that aspect of the book.

The biggest thing for me is one unanswered question that is actually asked in the series - what about the bell Brinley's father heard? That is never explained. I feel that is an oversight, or maybe it was too complicated to work into the book without a huge expansion ... but in that case the question should have been removed from the book. Its one thing for a reader to have questions of their own, it's another for an author to pose a question within the series that never gets answered.

Overall, the book gets 4 stars.

Serial Thoughts

As mentioned in my review of book 1, I'm not sold on how magic works in this world. To be sure, it is a well crafted story, but something seems a tad off, but I can't put my finger on it. Maybe its the lack of complete explanation, I don't know.

*To expand on my Farworld comment from book 2's review. The Farworld and Magemother series aren't actually that similar. Just the whole looking for mages (who control the elements) that are hidden was bringing me strong vibes of the looking for the hidden elementals (basically the elements themselves). Also, the cross-world transfer of a main character. But the journeys are drastically different, as are the endings. The Magemother series actually has a more satisfying ending, but as a series I think I prefer Farworld. If you like one of the series, though, I'm pretty sure you'll like the other.

And, to reiterate from my review of book 3, I don't like unanswered questions posed within the story itself (If I missed this someone please point it out to me!). There is also the Mormon-esque deity thing going on that doesn't completely fit with the world that was built.

My biggest complaint for the series as a whole is the age of the our main cast. They're around 12 years old! Everything they do just seems better suited for someone at least an additional 5 years older. It's a little overdone in literature today to have THE FATE OF THE WORLD resting on pre-to-early teens.

I was grateful that while there is friendship (and hints of particular people probably liking each other) romance is not really in the book. Like I said, it's hinted around, but it's not the star. THANK YOU! That is so nauseously overdone, and these books show you can have a good story without the romance. Especially when we're talking this young.

Mage and the Magpie: 4.5 stars
The Empty Throne: 4 stars
The Paradise Twin: 3 stars
The Bridge to Nowhere: 4 stars

Magemother series average: 4 stars

These book reviews appear as a part of the Reading Challenge 2016, to see other books in the challenge, click here.

I received complimentary ecopies of books 2 & 3 in exchange for my honest opinion.

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