I had no expectations going into this book, not even after reading the back cover description. I was itching for a good fantasy read, something rife with magic, intrigue, and war, and that’s more or less what I got.
Returning home after years abroad, Balfruss doesn’t know what awaits him. He only knows his king needs battle mages if there is any hope of winning a war against a deranged tyrant with a rogue warlock on his side. With a small band of powerful battle mages under his command, it’s up to Balfruss to protect those on the battlefield from magic. Vargus is little more than a common soldier, or so it seems, who takes it upon himself to rally the forces to keep them alive. He fills the hearts of his troops with a love for one another, forging a bond not even death can break, and it’s soldiers such as these who will fight beyond death–their names heard in the rallying calls of their brethren as they battle to hold onto freedom and each other. Daughter of the king, Talandra is not a typical princess by any means. She is well-connected, well-informed, and every secret whispered finds its way back to her ears. Acting as her father’s spymaster and adviser, Talandra must work behinmd the scenes to turn the tides of war through cunning and wiles the likes of which lesser men could never achieve. We are granted a fourth perspective in the narration that gets sort of glossed over in the description, but feels equally important–Gunder, a master of disguise employed within Talandra’s spy network.
Through the eyes of these four characters, we see a kingdom at war, shaken to its very foundation by a sense of hopelessness and inevitable defeat in the face of the enemy. Balfruss will do whatever it takes to cut down the warlock and his strange cell of mages. Vargas will push the soldiers on the front line beyond their will to survive, weaving together a force so strong nothing can dishearten them, not even the death of those they call brother. When Talandra finds herself in a position she never expected, it is up to her to set aside her personal freedom for the good of the kingdom. She’ll have to be cold, ruthless, unwavering in the face of the enemy, even if it means tearing out her own heart.
For a debut effort, I was pleased. Battle Mage had just the right amount of bloody battle and magic to keep me entertained, and the underground movement of the spy network was nicely done. My only complaint was that at times I felt like the author sacrificed character growth and development to further the war effort. I would have really enjoyed spending more time getting inside Balfruss’s soul, coming to understand more of who he was as a person. This is not to say the characters are completely underdeveloped, they have definite depth. I would have just liked to see more. The title, while not entirely deceptive, suggests this book focuses on the battle mages, but that wasn’t the case. The overall focus of this story was the battle itself.
4 out of 5 stars, and I will definitely be reading the next book in this series when it comes out next year.