Find yourself catapulted into the fantasy world of Urte, created by David Hair in his first instalment in The Moontide Quartet series: Mage's Blood. There are two continents, Yuros and Antiopia (otherwise known as Ahmedhassa), which have vastly different cultures, perspectives, religions and more that clash and cause conflict when the two meet. Fortunately, they are separated by the sea, making them two separate islands... until the Moontide arrives.
This results in the Leviathan Bridge, created by the infamous Antonin Meiros, rising from the sea and creating a pathway for the mages and soliders in Yuros to fight in a crusade to assert dominance, take their gold, and more. Mage's Blood starts before the Third Crusade. There is a focus on the traders and mage students in Yuros, where the traders are preparing to go over the bridge and earn gold and mage student's sitting their final exams to be given their jobs where most will be signed onto different solider groups to fight in the Crusade. Over in Antiopia, the focus is on a royal family being served by a mercenary with a dark history and a low-life market girl who is about to be married off to the love of her life.
Right from the beginning, it is revealed that there are many different political games being played in Urte and that there are many personalities that exist in them. A living saint is named in Lucia Sacrecour, the mother of the Emperor, although it is quickly shown that she does not have the mind of a saint. Her and a group of men, leaders of their own specific groups, form a committee to prepare for the upcoming Third Crusade, and although we are not told all of their plans at first there is a sense that the committee is proceeding towards something big.
The first chapter is seen through the eyes of Gurvon Gyle and it becomes apparent that he is dark and calculating, someone who knows how to play the political game. The next chapter is then from the perspective of Elena Anborn in Javon, Antiopia, who is a mage who has been guarding the Nesti royal family, and it is quickly determined that she has been secretly working for Gurvon but is feeling conflicted since she has grown to feel at home where she is. The transition to the next chapter, which introduces the character Alaron Mercer in Noros, Yuros, reveals a connection between all the characters so far. Alaron is a mage student preparing for his final exams with his friend, Ramon Sensini, and because they are lower-blooded in their mage-craft than most of the students at their college, they are bullied by the likes of pure-blood Malevorn Andevarian, Seth Korion, and others. More characters are introduced, such as Ramita Ankesharan of Antiopia, Cera Nesti of Brochena, Jehris Muhren and General Langstrit in Yuros, and so on as the chapters progress.
Since there are many characters around Urte in the two different continents, there are many story-lines present. They all are quite separate from each other, however, each has it's own underlining political drama in relation to the upcoming crusade. As each story-line expands, more depth is created, and more of what exists in Urte becomes apparent. It is shown throughout the whole of the text that there are many layers to each character and the setting around them. However, it is evident that each story-line has some connection with the rest, may it be a family connection or a historical one.
It is a fantasy, which relies on a whole new world with its own lore. This is provided at the beginning of each chapter, where an excerpt from a text in Urte is quoted to give explanation on a particular theme relating to that chapter. Not only do these excerpts provide information on the lore of the text but some also foreshadow what will occur in that chapter. This provides an interesting scope and also helps us understand everything that is occurring or what some words mean--the gnosis, for example.
Since the world of Urte is huge and there are so many different story-lines, it is hard to give a quick, no-spoiler summary. However, Mage's Blood proves to be a great first text in the series, introducing each character and their own back-story perfectly before the Third Crusade begins. It also emphasises the political game. It is a story about power, both in strength and politics, and how people place their pieces on the board of war, no matter how small the movement may be.
What I thought
I'm going to go straight to the point and say that this book is fantastic. I have always loved fantasy stories, particularly in regards to the lore surrounding them. To put excerpts from books that don't physically exist in our world fascinated me and drew me into the story, and then the rest of the text had me enraptured. I found myself connecting to each character and I was never bored by any of the story-lines. I have read plenty of fantasy books in the past with an omniscient narrator where a character's perspective bored me and I would have to push my way through their chapters, but this was definitely not the case in Mage's Blood.
I do have a warning for anyone who decides to read this text. I do not recommend children read it. Some scenes are very descriptive and not for young eyes, and I'm not talking about the violence. There are some very provocative and steamy scenes between some characters that are described in a lot of detail. So before you pick up this book to read, please make sure you are okay with that because, although the story is an awesome one, I can understand if people are put off by that.
Moving on from the hot and steamy, this book is jam-packed with drama, romance, conspiracy, and so much more that I found myself unable to put the book down. There were times where I wanted to shout at the characters for the decisions they were making, where I wanted to jump into the story and be a part of it, and the descriptions of mages and their affinities had me wanting the gnosis to exist in real life. There were some incredible plot twists as well that had me gasping and feeling adrenaline pump through me. There were only a few things that I guessed along the way but that didn't take away from the story at all.
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good fantasy story because this one is fantastic. If you're not into descriptive hot and steamy scenes, I would like to say you will still enjoy it if you skip over those parts but I understand if you would rather not read it. However, if you are okay with that, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. If you are a lover of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, or J. R. R. Tolkein's The Hobbit and/or The Lord of the Rings, then you will (hopefully) love this book too! It is a great fantasy novel, and hopefully the rest of the series continues in this way. The story is quite a long one but with the amount that is going on in book it goes by very quickly, particularly if you stay up into the early hours by accident because you can't seem to put the book down... but I'm totally not talking about a personal experience or anything.
Hopefully the next book is as good, so keep an eye out for the upcoming review on the second instalment to the series: Scarlet Tides.
Charlotte is a reading and writing lover who has completed a creative writing intensive course at the University of Oxford and is a current university student studying a double degree in journalism and creative writing. If you are curious to learn more, check out the 'About' page.