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A Mage of None Magic by A. Christopher Drown
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A Mage of None Magic: The Heart of the Sisters, Book One.
A. Christopher Drown
Tyrannosaurus Press, 2009
274 pgs.
ISBN: 9780971881976
Review by Charles Gramlich

A Mage of None Magic begins with a short history lesson. A thousand years earlier than the time of our immediate story, a wizard prodigy enrolled at the College of Magic and Conjuring Arts—think Lord Voldemort rather than Harry Potter—and as his abilities grew so did his arrogance and his search for forbidden magic. His name was Uhniethi, and he became the dark lord of the land, raining destruction on those who resisted him before disappearing into the unknown.
As the modern story opens, an unsuspecting nineteen-year-old wizard’s apprentice named Niel has taken a side trip to see the ocean before enrolling at the same College. A chance encounter and a sequence of bad luck throw Niel in with a group of adventurers looking for a magician to aid them in their search for an ancient ruin. Soon, Niel’s plans for his future are derailed and he finds himself an unwitting pawn in a thousand-year-old game.
A Mage of None Magic is “High Fantasy,” much more in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien than Robert E. Howard, and in keeping with good high fantasy there is a rich mythology upon which Drown has built his story. A key element of that mythology is the “Heart of the Sisters,” a massive gem which can amplify magical ability. Some fragments of the gem are scattered about the world and are eagerly sought by certain mages, usually the more unscrupulous ones. There is, of course, a psychic and psychological cost to using those fragments.
Niel is given a large fragment of the Heart and finds out that he is a key player in the struggle to “Heal the Heart,” which means to restore the gem to its original complete state. If that happens, the world will change forever.
The strengths of Drown’s book are many. First, the writing is quite good, with some genuine moments of poetry. Second, the created mythology and the invented world are rich enough to carry the current story and to provide fertile ground for future volumes in what is meant to be a series. Third, the high fantasy elements are well done without being too predictable. There are no elves, dwarfs or dragons, for example. Forth, Drown is adept at mixing humor into his story without letting it take over or detract from what is primarily a serious tale. Fifth, the key supporting characters are well differentiated with interesting back stories
There are also a couple of things I didn’t think worked quite as well. The hard-bitten adventurers who recruit Niel into their group soon offer him their friendship and loyalty as he becomes more involved with the search for the Heart. Although Niel is certainly a likable character, I didn’t think he did enough early in the book to create that loyalty and friendship. In other words, the adventurers acted out of character in this sense.
I would also have liked to see more of the world that Niel moves through. Generally, Drown does a good job creating the human-made environments in his world, such as the College itself and the various towns that our heroes visit, but except for the forest of the Galiiantha I didn’t get a strong feel for the natural world. This may be a matter of taste, of course.
Overall, A Mage of None Magic, gathered a lot of steam as the story moved along and the conflict at the heart of the tale is big enough and interesting enough to leave me looking forward to the next book in the series. It’s definitely a fine first novel.

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Reading Progress

August 30, 2009 – Shelved
August 30, 2009 – Shelved as: fantasy
Started Reading
September 13, 2009 – Finished Reading

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