Awakening Mages is the second book in Maria Herring’s Age of Acamedicians series. Mid-series books can be a challenge but the author does a good job of keeping up the pace and building tension; even though I knew the story wouldn’t conclude in this novel, I still found myself carried along to see how far we did get, and was left wanting more.
A lot of this book’s appeal comes down to its intriguing worldbuilding – the idea of divided world (something that always interests me) is given a startling new twist – and its varied cast of characters. I did initially feel we were meeting a lot of people, but all of them had a distinctive feel, and some, like the wise-beyond-his-years Squirrel and the irreverent and foul-mouthed Sabine, were fascinating individuals.
Although this is fantasy, with powerful magic in play, there is plenty of grime and darkness in this story, with some shocking acts of brutality. Whilst the unpleasantness can be pretty extreme, it’s not overly graphic and it never feels gratuitous, but is rather a reflection of how a world like this would function. And there are moments of levity and light relief, as well as a subtle humour running through the book. All in all, a brave and original novel with a cast of memorable characters.