Review: Bloodring (Rogue Mage Series #1) by Faith Hunter

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Same book, different covers. I usually prefer one over the other, but here, I kind of like them both. Maybe if someone had combined them, the design would reflect the content of the book more.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Date Read: February 03 to November 04, 2016
Recommended by:
Recommended to:

Not quite 4 stars but close because of the apocalyptic ice age setting… which sounds pretty nice right about now, what with the last election we’re ever gonna have coming up and the world ending shortly thereafter. Just kidding?

(I wrote bits and pieces of this review days before the election, and now I’m looking back and, yeah, an ice age sounds nice right about now. Or any apocalypse. Just bring it. I’m not picky.)

Anyhow.

This book is an unusual blend of almost everything I like to see in urban fantasy with the exception of angels and biblical tie-ins. Am not a fan of angels and even less a fan of angels + biblical things. Though, here, they work for the most part. However, there were times I found it to be too religious–not preachy, just too much… religion–but the religion (Roman Catholicism) is woven into the magic and mythology. Sounds complicated and convoluted, and in some ways it is, but it also works… somehow.

The story starts out with Thorn St. Croix, a neomage living among humans. It’s against the law to have a neomage outside of controlled facilities called Enclaves, so Thorn is also in hiding, in plain sight. She lives a rather quiet life in Mineral City, North Carolina and runs an artsy jewelry shop with a couple of friends who don’t know who she is. But her quiet life is disrupted when her ex-husband Lucas is kidnapped by a mysterious cult raising up to challenge the heavenly host. This brings the angels down to earth, and where they go, the apocalypse follows. Thorn and her friends are caught in the middle. To save their town, their little piece of world that’s relatively peaceful and quiet, they must go against the literal forces of darkness.

That’s the basic plot. What I left out is a ton of world building. So let’s go back further.

Nearly a century before Thorn came into existence, there was an apocalypse (to end all almost-apocalypses) when the biblical angels of heaven descended to punish humanity for its wicked ways. This brought nearly complete destruction of the planet, biblical style, and nearly all of the human population on earth perished. The few communities that survived had to rebuild and conform to the new world order under the angels. The ice age is a byproduct of the planet getting nearly destroyed.

The new world order is what you’d expect from any orthodox governing body: no violence, no vices, absolutely no “sinning” of any kind. No fun, but people live in relative “peace” in the sense that they live and go about their lives with the fear of angelic wrath hanging over their heads. They’re also expected to attend religious gatherings every day. You can’t just observe, you must actively participate. Religion is not a choice but a way of life, and religious elders and leaders are cantankerous asses. I guess some things just never change.

What I found most interesting about this set-up is the inclusion of a gay couple in the main cast of characters. Given what we know of orthodox religions, you’d expect LGBT people to be shunned and/or executed, but that’s not the path this story took. For now, I’m glad for these two characters and liked that they lived to see the end of this book. It looks like they’re a big part of the next book too–I’m currently in the middle of book 2.

Oh, and there’s a budding romance and a few love interests, but they doesn’t take up the whole book. One of the guys is a cop who’s investigating the ex-husband’s disappearance and he’s a descendant of angels. Sadly no wings though. The other guy is also some kind of angelic hybrid–also no wings. I kinda wanted wings, to be honest.

The writing is decent, albeit slow in the beginning, but you get used to it as you read on, and it does gradually pick up speed. The characters are okay, as are the plot and mythology. I like the mixing of orthodoxy and magic. It’s a strange but interesting combo, although I’d prefer more magic, world building, ice storms, and much less religion.

This book may look like it’s all urban fantasy on the surface, but it’s something else underneath. I’m not sure how to categorize because, along with all the religious and new-age magical stuff, there’s also a government conspiracy to give the story a futuristic, sci-fi feel. Everything else, from the world to the angels to the way people live in this post-apocalyptic time, is interesting enough that I’ll most likely finish the trilogy. It’ll take some time getting there, but as I’ve learned, this book and most likely this whole trilogy is meant to be taken slowly, with frequent breaks in between.

The one thing that made this book stand out among the hundreds (or hundreds of thousands?) of urban fantasies of its kind–many of which I passed on simply because they looked too much like something I’d seen or read before–is the setting. It’s an endless, bitterly cold winter–and of course angels–but it’s an endless winter. The whole world is buried under a ton of snow and there hasn’t been any seasonal changes since the apocalyptic ice age hit. No one alive remembers the seasons changing. They speak of warm weather as though it’s a myth because all they know is winter, whereas the way things are going now in our world, we might one day speak of cold weather the way these people speak of the myth that was summer.

Overall, this was a good story with a slow burn, though not one I’d recommend unless you’re looking for something fairly different (but still somewhat the same) on the urban fantasy shelf. For me, though, it was a refreshing break from the usual dark and dank magical urban settings.

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