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Classic Fantasy, just...WAY too predictable

The Sentinel Mage - Emily Gee

I read this within 24 hours. I did not love it.

First the good:

Emily Gee writes well, not doubt about it; her prose is fluid and moves at a really good pace and her descriptions are short, yet they paint a very detailed picture, which is really hard for authors to do without dragging it on for too long.

She is really good at info-dumping, discreetly, and setting up an interesting premise even if the recipe is a little too "tried and true"; the political intrigues are very well explained and don't really bog down the plot.


Now the bad:

The romance. She has gone the all-too-familiar way that has been threaded a 1000 times and there's absolutely NO deviation from it.

You see a female protagonist, you see a handsome prince, he hates mages, she is a mage and your first thought is inevitably: They're going to doink! You see a gentle and kind princess, you see her loyal and over-protective armsman, and your first thought? They're going to doink, too!

(show spoiler)


It is so predictable and annoying that it bogs down the whole plot because there are no twists in there, none! And to make matters worse, Gee has picked some of the worst kind of stereotypical characters to drive her point through:



1. The prince who hates magic, turns out to be a mage, thus hating himself and mages even more.

2. The extraordinary mage who's the only one (apparently) who can protect him and is shy and gentle and of course falls for him.

3. The smart, young mage who's in love with the extraordinary mage and is jealous of the prince.

4. The kind and gentle princess who saves bugs and protects everyone around her.

5. The loyal armsman who's in love with the kind princess.

6. The orphaned boy, running from the destruction and gets picked up by someone who wants to train him...he will of course meet the protagonists sooner or later.

Finally the secret: The mages shapeshift into a seemingly ordinary man, so they can properly protect the magic-hating prince, thus leading to the woman he's attracted to, deceiving him the WHOLE DAMN TIME. Yeah, that's not gonna blow up in their faces.

My biggest gripe with the story was prince Harkeld. He was a walking contradiction, not because he's a mage, hating magic, but because he was smart enough to doubt that the whole myth about the curse (set in place by a mage) was real, yet was stupid enough to believe rumors that mages ate babies, gave birth to kittens and mated with animals (WTF?).


There's a complete disconnect in logic, surrounding his hate; it goes beyond mere lack of understanding to the absolutely moronic. These rumors were centuries old and at no point did he stop and say: "Hey, these mages don't do that, so maybe the rumors weren't true or maybe it was only some mages?"

No, reason be damned, he goes around constantly yelling at them that they're monsters, he's oh-so-scared of them and can't open his horizons the tiniest bit to even think of another possibility. That is NOT a smart guy, despite Emily Gee trying to harp on the fact that he's actually quite intelligent.

He even, almost kills his best friend (shapeshifted mage) because some woman he slept with once says the guy raped her. Doesn't even ask his friend or others if they know the truth, just beats him up until he's on the verge of death. And the mage (posing as an ordinary guy) just forgives him. Reason and rationality be damned! She wants to bone him so bad, she can't stay mad at him!

(show spoiler)



This leads me to my last complaint: over-characterization. The Armsman from another country is the best example; he's being discriminated against...all the time. By everyone. Could have been mentioned once or twice, or shown, rather than told. Instead, every time he's around some other armsmen they have to point out that he's outlandish and call him names based on that fact alone.

Seriously, if I should pinpoint one feature that this book sorely lacks, it's subtlety. You never wonder what a person actually thinks or feels, it's all clear as day and the attributes of a character are hammered onto the pages, every few chapters, in case you forget.


There was potential for a really gripping, classic fantasy tale here but it is so mired in clichés, stereotypes and a reason to hate mages that is not quite convincing or even all that logical that it just made me annoyed with the characters rather than trying to understand them.

I'll skip the other two, this series is not original enough to put up with the annoying protagonists' little game of love, to me.


EDIT: Despite my severe objections, the author manages to get around some of the fantasy settings very originally. Magic comes with its own set of rules, spelling disaster if you forget them (though it has yet to be shown) and undead are treated in a way that makes you wish to never meet them.

The potential of Gee as a writer is unmistakable and she could become epic if she strayed a little from the "romance" as the main plot line and focused on the other aspects of the story, which were enough to make me turn the pages in the sparse form they represented, despite me rolling my eyes at the protagonists.