A recommendation, The Innocent Mage, by Karen Miller, was approached with due caution. The blurb conformed to the expectation: "Chosen One"s scattered liberally, absolute evil... But good books as well as bad have been tarred with this particular blurb brush, and so I picked it up and set to work. It was, as I had expected, a mixed read:
Lur, a land cohabited by both the native Olken, and the fugitive, ruling Duranen, is showing signs of civil unrest - the Olken, forbidden their (weaker) magical abilities, and ruled by effortlessly magical Duranen, are rioting in the streets - as Asher, fisherman and eighth son, enters the Royal Stables. Rising through blunt manner to become an assistant to the sole aberration in this order, Prince Gar - a magicless Doranen serving in the role of mediator between the two peoples -, Asher is being watched. Less usual than one would expect? We'll see. The Circle seek to preserve Olken magic until the coming of the prophecied "Innocent Mage", an Olken with the abilities of the magical Duranen. It's a decent plot so far, but the outside threat added later into the novel turns the tale of mediation and unrest into out more stereotypical tale of absolutes: good versus evil. The Duranen had fled Morg - absolute evil - to come to Lur, the land inhabited by the Olken - and erected the Weatherwall, some unknown symbiosis of weather and magic to repel Morg. But this is about to change. Unbeknownst to the Doranen, their excavations in the old Palace have uncovered a way to bring Morg inside their best defence against him...
And it gets worse. There are few twists, and Asher's personality doesn't develop past the half-way mark - but that's not to say it's all bad. Miller's portrayal of speech is remarkable, bringing characters' dialogues to life even when their actual characterisation (as in Daphne, the transparent romantic interest) is rather weak. Asher's POV, also, is well characterised, even without significant development - a sympathetic aspect in Miller's prose-as-Asher lends drive to the narrative through concern, emnity, and empathy for the surrounding characters - Gar, the Circle and the Doranen Royal Court.
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