Friday, April 8, 2016

The Mage of Trelian by Michelle Knudsen, 2016

Spoiler Warning: The Mage of Trelian is the third book in the Trelian trilogy. I've tried to make my review as nonspecific as possible to avoid spoiling the rest of the series, but there are some things it's impossible not to mention. If you haven't read the first two books then read ahead at your own peril!

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Apprentice mage Calen shocked everyone when he disappeared—apparently willingly—with Krelig, the incredibly powerful and evil mage intent on destroying the Magistatum and forcing the world to submit to his rule. Krelig believes Calen’s untapped magical power will be the key to his victory, and is training him to unlock his full potential. Calen is desperate to escape, but knows he must first learn as much as he can if there is to be any hope of defeating Krelig. Meanwhile, Trelian is at war, and Princess Meg has been training with her dragon to fight the enemy forces. She refuses to accept that her best friend, Calen, could really be a traitor, but she might be the only one. As the mages prepare for their own deadly battle, Calen must find a way to get back to Trelian to stop Krelig before it’s too late—if those he left behind will forgive and trust him enough to let him come home at all.
(423 pages)

I've been a long-time fan of the Trelian books, since I first stumbled across them about five years ago, and I can't tell you how thrilled I was to find out that there was finally going to be a final book in the trilogy! The cliffhanger at the end of Princess of Trelian is brutal - I have no idea what Knudsen was thinking leaving her readers hanging for so long before she released the resolution. Yikes.

Anyway, Mage is written just as well as the first two books in the trilogy. My lingering dissatisfaction with the novel doesn't come from the writing or the pacing or anything like that - no, it comes from the ending, which I can't discuss without spoilers. Let's just say I'm not a fan of false dichotomies (Meg's parents, I'm looking at you) and ambiguous romance conclusions. There were a few different ways the story could have gone that would have left me completely happy, and the one Knudsen chose just wasn't one of them.

That said, this is a very engaging book. I devoured it in only a few sittings, and that wasn't just because I'd loved the first two books so much - I was legitimately gripped by the story and the need to know what would happen next. This book is darker than the first two in some ways, and I really love it. The entire series has that feeling of authenticity to it that is so hard for most authors to master: I legitimately feel like Calen and Meg are real people, people who make their own choices and have their own very strong personalities. They're not caricatures, and that's both a plus and a minus. I actually wish they'd followed a slightly more cliche path to reach the ending, just because I'm a huge softy. What actually happens plot-wise is pretty amazing too, but I just don't really like the ending.

I love how Knudsen really doesn't pull any punches when it comes to showing just how dark and twisted Krelig really is. He breaks people, and he forces them to give their all to him. Calen is the only person who can even slightly resist Krelig's force, but Calen is so enamored with the techniques he is learning that he begins to put off returning home. He begins this mental tennis match between "I need to get out of here now!" and "I should stay, because I'm learning so much every day." He's stuck in a hard spot, and the way he escapes - gah! I can't discuss it, but my heart is absolutely broken. Truly and completely.

Do I recommend this book? Well, if you've read the first two Trelian novels then my thoughts really don't matter - you know you're going to read Mage, no matter what people tell you. If you're deciding to read the series as a whole, then . . . yes, I think I do recommend it. I wish the ending was a bit more satisfying, but I can't discount the entire series just because Knudsen's ending is more open-ended than the one I had hoped for. I'm glad I read the trilogy, and I encourage you to give it a try.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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