In Bakutis’ debut epic fantasy, a young mage discovers the return of a great evil while she attempts to save her mother and friends.
Nineteen years ago, Xander woke up paralyzed and heard two people discussing how to deal with his dangerous unborn daughter—perhaps even killing her. Surprisingly, these two people are his father and grandmother, and they have good reason (so they think): unborn Kara has special heritage, and she’ll be the target for the demonic Mavoureen. When readers meet Kara 19 years later, she has no memory of her real father, Xander, or of the role she might play in the battle with the Mavoureen. Now an accomplished mage at the Magic Academy of Solyr and on a quest for magical ingredients to save her mother from a horrible disease, Kara finds an amnesiac man who knows her name and has some strange powers of his own. She also seeks the position of Royal Apprentice and ends up fighting for it with the rich jerk student. These mysteries and schoolyard fights lead into a more epic fight, involving the gods who made the world, a vengeance-seeking mage who has given her allegiance to the demons, and a potential war between provinces that Kara and her friends race to stop. This may sound typical of modern fantasy, but the result is an entertaining debut that avoids many missteps. While there’s a lot of info about the world, Bakutis nicely uses the students and the amnesiac man to serve up these details, helping the information feel less like an undigested lump of worldbuilding notes. Plus, the world largely holds together and doesn’t brim with stuff merely because the author thought it was cool. The characters are largely engaging, each with his or her own story to tell, from the healer who faces a terrible choice to the aforementioned rich jerk who turns out to have a more noble side. Toward the end, the power level and cast size both seem to increase, and Kara seems sometimes to be buffeted by other characters rather than making her own choices. Perhaps the sequel will help refocus.
An entertaining fantasy debut.