The Cloak of Magic is an entertaining story set in a world of where ‘paradise’ is swept up into the power struggles of a decadent empire against a surThe Cloak of Magic is an entertaining story set in a world of where ‘paradise’ is swept up into the power struggles of a decadent empire against a surprisingly intractable rebellion. Not a bad setting as far as such goes; however, the author’s attempt to paint this primitive agrarian society into the epitome of spirituality quickly begins to grate under the repetition. To be fair, I generally don’t find utopias all that interesting, so the perpetual reminders of how perfect this society was simply made it more difficult for me to identify with the people in the story … they just weren’t ‘real.’ Kierce was the only character I felt had much depth at all. It was through him that the author presents the best part of the story. The most intriguing concept was that of the Lord High Magician, who appears to be the focal point of the sustaining spirit of this otherwise ‘godless’ land. Unfortunately his uniqueness is overshadowed by the author’s attempt to portray the religious fanaticism driving the imperial forces (and with whom they find themselves allied with) as diametrically evil against purity of the ‘Holy Land.’ Here is where the story began to break down for me; I continually had the feeling that I was being preached at while the author tried to emphasize the moral superiority of the one society over the other. It seemed to me that the religion of the empire was a proxy for religion (external to the story) in general and that author was engaging in a little minor axe grinding.
Lest I give the wrong impression completely, I want to restate my opinion that this was a good story. The interplay between the main characters was well done and frequently humorous; in fact, I would have liked more of it (the story pacing was a tad quick). I was especially interested in the imperial commander … who seems posed to make an even greater contribution to the storyline in the future. Even the political intrigue was complex enough to be fairly enjoyable, as well as reasonably plausible. Of course, what sets this story apart from most is the magic; while not well explained, magic appears to be mostly illusion and slight of hand, with the possible exception of the Lord High Magician’s sympathetic connection to spirit of life within his realm. Perhaps this will change as Kierce grows into his power … but I hope not....more
This book was all about trade-offs. On the one hand, Martin introduces a fair amount of complex political intrigue and (what seemed like) realism in h This book was all about trade-offs. On the one hand, Martin introduces a fair amount of complex political intrigue and (what seemed like) realism in his world building gave it just enough grit to appear different then the standard epic (low) fantasy I had grown used to. In fact, some time later I read that Martin was quite pleased with the fact that just because a character was a 'good' guy, doesn't mean he will survive the story ... the only problem was that it really was difficult to find them. Jon Snow was perhaps the only individual I liked much at all, but his story seemed to be there to set him up for something much later. The nominal hero of the story was probably Eddard ... whose complete rigidity and lack of empathy really made him a detestable figure, despite his adherence to honor et. al. It was not until the War started that the story started to redeem itself ... And it did so admirably. The War of the Five Kings was the best part of the book; but even that drops a star because of the number and frequent changes of the various Points of View within (8 total POV across 3 major plotlines). This was THE most frustrating aspect of the book as every single switch made it real easy to put the book down and forget about it for awhile (at least until the later part of the book where I was more tempted to just skip ahead and ignore the crap in between ... Then maybe going back and reading the next POV/storyline parts. I did struggle through to the end though ... And the irritation faded enough that I purchased the next book in the series after finding the 4th in a yard sale for a quarter ... And it wasn't long before I encountered enough 'realism' and not enough 'idealism' to decide that this series wasn't as good as I had remembered. Parts of it was really fun; parts of it I really disliked and would have preferred to do without. I still haven't read past book two....more