Okay, I grant I read this a little ways back, so my memory is a wee bit fuzzier than I’d prefer as I write this, but honestly, I think you all would enjoy the heck out of it, so here I am. Fire Mage was one of those books that my husband had to force me to put down so I would actually sleep at some point, the night I picked it up.
The two lead characters were both compelling and each had completely believable reasons for going out on their respective adventures, and I rather liked them both. Scarred since childhood, Jena has spent the past few years in the best place she can remember. The great mage Thornal shelters her and, despite the prohibition on women using mage spells, teaches her all he knows. When he is killed at the hands of elite royal assassins, he spends the last of his power to keep her safe and destroy the very thing the assassins were sent for. As Thornal instructed with his last words, Jena uses her illicit mage skills to destroy her mentor’s hut, reach the supposed safety of the Forest of Ghosts, and get past one of the forest’s creepy guardians. Once there, she learns more about her late mentor and discovers a sister, Bree, that she never knew of.
Jena is plucky and determined, and as we learn on the way also pretty powerful with a Super Secret Super Power, but she’s not all powerful. She’s also not prone to fits of hysteria or sulking or any of the common heroine tropes. She’s inexperienced and aware of it, and she’s scared, with good reason. The only complaint I really have is how easily she falls into accepting her newfound sister, and how she’ immediately tries to be close ‘like sisters are.’ Yes, they’re blood relatives, when they both thought they didn’t have any, but sharing DNA doesn’t always automatically mean that people will be close, or even like each other, necessarily.
Nate is rescued from being murdered by those very same royal assassins by a mercenary under a geas. This man explains that the Crown Prince— and soon to be king— wants him dead since Nate is in actuality the Long Lost True Heir. Nate is, shall we say, skeptical. While he appreciates Argus saving his life and all, he’s clearly a bit cracked if he thinks Nate is anything other than a bastard and a failed mage. And his refusal to say who he’s working for makes Argus somewhat less than trustworthy. Argus turns out to be right about one thing, though: Nate is definitely being hunted. Nate can also see and interact with ghosts, so when he is suddenly haunted by the ghost of a particular, recently dead mage who helps him tap into powers he never knew he had, Nate finds himself on a journey he never wanted, just in a bid to keep himself alive.
I like Nate. He’s not the sort of hero that simply accepts everything he’s told by whoever he runs into on the journey. He questions everything, doesn’t trust his companions outside of a narrow band of behaviors, and has a more than healthy amount of skepticism. It’s a pleasant change from the standard ‘I’m on an adventure s everyone must obviously be just what they present themselves as!’ Attitude that so many heroes adopt the second they set out. Frankly, I wouldn’t trust Argus either, Nate. Good call.
Naturally, these two meet up in the Forest of Ghosts when Nate and Argus are desperately trying to outrun some nasty dark rider style creatures made up of thousands of flies. Not corpses. Not smoke or brainwashed humans on aggressive horses. Horse and rider are both made out of flies. That is both creative and super gross.
Anyway, Nate and Argus make it into the Forest, though Argus is poisoned by the fly-rider things, and from there it’s a merry-is band of four as the sisters, the mage, and the mercenary set out with the vague aim of making it to Argus’ master’s house. Not that any of them trust the guy, but it’s the only lead they’ve got.
This is already dragging on a bit, so I’m going to wrap up by pointing out that these characters are well worth spending a few hours of your time with. Nate and Jena do feel an attraction to one another, so there is a potential romance floating in the plot. It’s a series, so the bigger plot doesn’t wrap up, either. There’s a healthy bit of story left to go in this universe, and frankly, I look forward to going over it. What, exactly, does it mean that Nate is the prophesied Fire Mage? How can he leverage that to keep himself alive, and presumably save the world on the way? How does Jena manage to keep herself alive even though she’s clearly a mage of no small skill herself, which as a woman carries a death sentence? What happens to Argus and Bree?
The book does end on a cliffhanger. They reach the interim goal they’d set for themselves, but the book doesn’t take them further than that, and I definitely can’t help but feel like this whole thing is a setup for badness. As cliffhangers go, it’s a good one. I definitely want to know what happens next.
In the end, this was a thoroughly enjoyable adventure with characters I didn’t get tired of and a decent take on the old Rightful Heir trope. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who wants a fun high fantasy escape. I have a feeling that book two is going to be worth the wait. In the meantime, I’m going to check out a few of Trudi Jaye’s other books. If you want a copy, now’s your chance. Giveaways don’t happen EVERY day, but aren’t they fun when they do? What’s next on your TBR list?