Readers, it's no secret that I've been gobbling up Quercus/Jo Fletcher books of late - I've just gotten in two of their UK books I special ordered for Halloween and their US releases have been making their way into my TBR stack regularly. So of course David Hair's Mage's Blood was already on my radar even before I started seeing it compared to GRRM's Song of Ice and Fire series. But this 600+ page whopper was going to demand significant reading time so I had to wait just a bit. It's a good thing I did - this book had been kicking my ass for over a week!
The continents of Yuros and Antiopia have long been separated by an impassable stretch of ocean, but the mage built Leviathan Bridge changed all of that. Every twelve years, the bridge is revealed and trade and commerce are made accessible to the masses of both lands. But the bridge has also brought war. As the upcoming moontide grows closer the people of both sides are preparing for battle.
Mage Antonin Meiros, the man behind the Leviathan Bridge, has lost his heir. As an Ascendant, he's lived much longer than any normal man but now he feels his time is running out. His search for a new wife has led him to Lakh in southern Antiopia and Ramita Ankesharan. Ramita is promised to another but Meiros offers her father riches beyond anything he'd ever imagined in exchange for his eldest daughter's hand. Obedient but distraught, Ramita has no choice but to agree. Meiros believes their children will finally mean peace between the two lands, but Ramita's beloved, Kazim, stands in their way.
Meanwhile, Alaron Mercer is preparing for his final exams in Noros. If he passes, it could mean the realization of everything he's dreamed of. If he fails, it means he'll never be able to use his gnosis again. For his thesis, he's made what could be a groundbreaking discovery but it's one that will garner him the wrong kind of attention and put everything he's worked for at risk. And while Alaron battles the politics of Noros, his aunt, Elena Anborn, will face a political battle of another kind. Elena has been tasked with protecting the royal children of Javon. But the powers that be back on Yuros believe that this kingdom may be key to their winning or losing their upcoming crusade. When Elena ignores a direct order that would have her part of the elimination of said family, she becomes a target and enemy of her former employer.
Whew! This is a dense read. It's good, don't get me wrong. In fact, it's very good! The comparisons to Song of Ice and Fire are appropriate in that this new series from Hair is epic fantasy with a complex world filled with history and mythology. Obviously if these are the things you love about George R. R. Martin's series, then they'll hold just as much appeal in Hair's Moontide Quartet.
There's considerably more magic in Mage's Blood than you'll find in A Song of Ice and Fire, but I'd say they're about equal in the political machinations! The chapters are headed up with bits of history and descriptions of the gnosis and such that also help considerably in immersing the reader in the world.
The beginning of the book was a little tough to get into. The introduction of the geography, the history, and the numerous characters was a bit much for my brain to handle even though I had steeled myself for it. Turns out it's not something I could easily prepare myself for and the first 150 pages or so were kind of rough. I couldn't be more glad that I stuck it out, though, as the book picks up considerably once all the players have been introduced. As is the case with most epic fantasy, the chapters alternate between the core characters - meaning you've got just enough time to get sucked into one person's story before having to move onto the next! And of course there's a killer cliffhanger of an ending, so now I'm desperately waiting for book two.
Seriously, though, if you're craving a big chunskter read and need something to hit the spot while waiting for the next season or release of GRRM, you should most definitely check out Hair. As one reviewer pointed out, go with the physical on this so you can refer back to the maps! It'll help in getting yourself oriented with the geography :)
UPDATE: Looks like book two, The Scarlet Tides, is out in the UK now. No word on the US release but considering the first just hit shelves here last month, we've got a little wait.