The Summoned Mage: Diary of a misplaced mage

The Summoned Mage by Melissa McShane fantasy book reviewsThe Summoned Mage by Melissa McShane fantasy book reviewsThe Summoned Mage by Melissa McShane

Editor’s note: At the time we are posting this review, this  99c at Amazon.

The Summoned Mage (2017) is the diary of Sesskia, a 27 year old thief and secret mage: secret because being a mage is viewed as an executable offense in her country of Balaen. But her magical powers have saved Sesskia’s life before, and in any case are a part of her very self that are both exhilarating and terrifying. So Sesskia wanders from place to place, seeking new magic spells (called pouvrin) and leaving clues behind her for other mages. So far Sesskia has gathered pouvrin for summoning fire and water, seeing through things, walking through walls, and moving objects with her mind.

Then one morning she is suddenly and magically hauled into a strange new world, where she recognizes no one and nothing. It soon becomes apparent that there are many more mages in this world, and magic is a respected craft, but life is still rough when you don’t understand the language and are being held as a virtual prisoner. Plus there’s a sarcastic chief mage (Sesskia calls him Smug Git in her diary) who manages to annoy Sesskia every time they meet. But Sesskia can’t understand why all the mages in this new country use gestures and writing to perform even the simplest magical spells.

As Sesskia learns the language of Castavir, she realizes that Castavir and her home land, Balaen, were once a single land that long ago was magically divided into two separate worlds, existing in different planes of reality. But now the two lands are converging again, a process that could wreak havoc on both lands and kill thousands. The mages of Castavir are trying to figure out a way to either stop the process or minimize the damage it will cause. And Sesskia and her magic ― pouvrin are unknown in Castavir ― could be key to that process.

Melissa McShane’s writing style is appealing and lucid, and it’s a pleasure watching Sesskia gradually integrate into this entirely new world and gain trusted friends (and fall in love) for the first time in her life. There are some intriguing political maneuverings to balance the magical and romantic plotlines. The characters in The Summoned Mage are well-rounded, with very human weaknesses. The Castaviran Empire’s lovely but murderously insane God-Empress is a unique character, and it’s terrifying when she takes a personal interest in Sesskia.

Melissa McShane

Sesskia ― true to her nature as a thief and wanderer ― spends a fair amount of time on illicit exploratory excursions. Those explorations, although a convenient way to find out more about the world she has landed in, got a little tiresome after a while. The magical system in The Summoned Mage was creative but somewhat confusing, particularly where McShane uses unfamiliar words like pouvra, th’an and kathana to describe different types of magical spells. It takes a little time to assimilate, for both Sesskia and the reader (a glossary at the end helps to clarify these and other unusual terms and place names). And while I always appreciate a good romance and was definitely into Sesskia’s love interest, the Castaviran culture has a rather strange take on marriage that didn’t entirely hold water for me.

The Summoned Mage ends with a cliffhanger, but the entire CONVERGENCE trilogy was published simultaneously, so there’s no need to wait until you can start the second book, The Wandering Mage. And I didn’t!

Published May 23, 2017. Sesskia, talented thief and secret mage, has spent the last ten years traveling the world, searching for ancient books that will teach her magic forbidden in her country. When she is magically transported to another world where magic is not only permitted, but celebrated, she wonders if she ever wants to return. With new friends and a chance at a new life, Sesskia feels as if she’s finally come home. But catastrophe is coming. Her new home Castavir and the world of her birth are coming inexorably together, heralding near-total destruction for both. The mad God-Empress of Castavir intends to take advantage of the crisis by conquering both worlds—whatever is left of them. Sesskia must work with the Castaviran mages to combine their radically different magics to prevent the convergence from happening and save both her worlds.

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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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2 comments

  1. April /

    I actually graded this one a bit less than you, for a couple of reasons, one, the ending was terrible, it wasn’t quite a cliffhanger as the main’s life isn’t left in the balance but it was the next worst thing. Even if the next book is readily available, there is no need to leave the readers with that type of ending. And two, there was quite a bit of worldbuilding that was just plain left out – because of the diary style which I liked, it missed out on explaining the wider world to the reader.

    • I’m with you on disliking those kinds of endings; I might have cut it some slack because I already had all three books in hand. So I was less irritated by the break than I normally would be. I finished the series still on the fence with the diary approach. It was unusual, but I wasn’t entirely won over by it.

      What I did like most, in the end, was the basic plot element of a world magically divided many centuries ago, and what happens on a magical, physical, social and political level when they rejoin.

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