I will admit that The Galactic Mage is set in a genre that I rarely read as both space travel and fantasy collide in this unique story. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how well the author John Daulton was able to blend those genres together. This is the first book in what will become a series of books for author John Daulton, and I cannot wait to see what comes next!
I was first captivated by the beautiful cover art. The artist, Cris Ortega, is a very popular artist with amazing talent. I feel she really captured the character’s looks perfectly (especially Orli – except for her outfit) and it was nice to occasionally look back on the cover when I needed a visual reference from time to time. After reading the book I can even spot minor details in the artwork that leads me to believe the artist may have even read the book (or perhaps received a very detailed description of events from the author to work from) as the little details speak directly to a scene within the book. It’s always nice when cover art actually has something to do with the contents of the book and I appreciate quality artwork.
At 526 pages, I knew I was in for quite a read. Although the number of pages was nothing new to me, readers who are more comfortable with 200-300 pages will still find themselves easily ensconced in this book as it goes by effortlessly. I barely noticed that it was a good 200 pages longer than the most recent books I had picked up. While the author did throw in a few large words that I had to look up, those were few and fairly far between. The characters, story, and writing are all well thought out for ease of reading while still achieving depth and detail that provides true interest.
I flipped through the book to look at things such as font size, dedication, and acknowledgments and stumbled upon two illustrations. The first was a map of the world of Prosperion that one of the main characters, Altin Meade, lives in. The second illustration was also centered on Altin Meade; it depicted the schools of magic that the mages native to his planet can be skilled in. I enjoyed these illustrations and found myself flipping back to them throughout my reading as Altin would mention different continents or cities so that I could really get a good visual in my head as to where those locales were in his world. It helps to have those kinds of guides for deeper story immersion in my opinion. I do wish there could have been some kind of maps for the other main character Orli Pewter’s ship, and maybe an illustration of the planets Andalia and Naotatica perhaps as well.
The story is told from the perspectives of each main character, Altin Meade and Orli Pewter. Throughout the majority of the book, these characters have no knowledge of one another and it is a bit like reading two books simultaneously. The downside to this is that it felt somewhat disjointed as I could not find a single connecting thread between the stories until I made my way through a little over half of the book. Once the connection was made, however, the story took on new meaning and the lead-in became worth the wait. Although done completely separate from one another, the character development was essential to this book and well crafted.
Each character has a depth of emotion and internal struggles that make them feel real. I especially connected with Orli Pewter, a woman who as a young girl was brought aboard the spaceship Aspect by her father and was forced to grow up in a military environment with no means of escape in the deep of space. All she longs for is a life upon a living breathing planet once more having been stuck on the sterile ship that she never had a choice of boarding in the first place. Ten years have passed for her aboard the Aspect and all hope of returning to a planet’s surface is slowly dying within her. Her feelings of confinement, anger and depression contrasted with her almost naïve wishful thinking and daydreaming make her a well-rounded and honest feeling character.
Although something struck a deeper chord within me in the character of Orli, Altin Meade was a very well-conceived character as well. Altin is a young man striving to make a name for himself that goes against what those around him expect of him. He is a six, and therefore those around him expect him to die in reckless pursuit of his magical endeavors as the previous sixes always have (The Curse of Six). Altin’s magical abilities are extremely strong and he continually pushes his limits to achieve his goals.
Altin is a determined, driven young man who shrugs off the advances of women and the lectures of his elders to pursue his quest in reaching the moon and therefore defying all who would doubt him. Those traits show his youth, self-absorbedness, and over-exuberance edging towards recklessness that characterizes his more negative aspects. At the same time though, Altin is a gentle person who seeks to find a way to be more considerate and friendly to those around him. He understands why he must strive to be better to the people who care for him and he grows incredibly throughout his journey.
The contrast in both the characters is further solidified in the differences in their environments. Altin comes from a planet that is much like a medieval Earth with magic sprinkled in and extremely prevalent. Altin’s society still functions under the rule of a queen and has a rather feudal social structure. The citizens of his planet rely on magic as if it were modern technology. Whereas the crew of the Earth fleet that Orli is a part of is devoid of magic and they could not fathom its existence. Their ships and clothing are all uniform and sterile in design; their society is militant as they are a fleet of military ships sent from Earth. The two worlds could not possibly be more different, and yet when they collide it feels seamless and exciting.
While both characters and environments are completely different, they each have a common foe in “The Hostiles”. The Hostiles are an alien race that has already annihilated one entire planet’s population and civilization and now both Altin and Orli need to come together in order to defeat them. Both Altin and Orli encounter the Hostiles separately, which initially gives a connecting thread to their separate development. Then, as the climax of the plot reaches its peak they fight them together making for a very complex and multifaceted meshing of genres as magical fantasy meets Earth’s modern technology.
Overall I have to say that this book surprised me in how much I enjoyed it. Both space travel and high fantasy are genres I typically do not read much of and this book had both. The story felt fresh and unique, the characters were relatable and had depth, the environments were rich and detailed, and the pacing was excellent. The story has a slower lead that lays out the plot, the character development, and sets a good stage as it gathers speed and moves on to an exciting and energetic crescendo that calms itself for a wrap-up of loose ends to complete the book. While there are a few very minor unanswered questions, I feel that those may be addressed in the following books to come in the series and offer a launching point for more great stories to be told.
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