I am a sucker for a good sword and sorcery book. I recently burned through all the audiobooks of the Riyria Revelations and Riyria Chronicles series by Michael J. Sullivan. Highly recommend them. And being in that frame of mind from my daily commute (I listen to audio books in the car), I went looking for something along similar lines.
Dragon Age: Magekiller, is set in the same universe as the Dragon Age video games. Written by Greg Rucka (Action Comics, Batwoman, Detective Comics) and Carmen Carnero (X-Factor, Superior Foes, Punisher, Cyclops, Swamp Thing), the book follows the adventures of a pair of adventurers with a unique skillset – Magekillers.
Marius was a Perrepatae, a slave of Tevinter Imperium, a land ruled by a powerful magocracy. The Perrepatae are magekillers. Marius has taken that particular skill and turned it into a paying job. He has even taken an apprentice and partner, Tessa Forsythia. Together they hunt blood mages, the worst kind of mage, those who kill to gain power. When they are drawn back to the Tevinter Imperium for a job, it doesn’t go quite as planned. They find themselves forced into the service of Illeneva, Magister of Tevinter. He wants a secret group of Magi killed because they’re going to bring about the end of the world. Marius doesn’t believe him, but also doesn’t see a way out, so they take the job and are doing well, until he runs into someone from his past…
This is a very fast-paced story with tons of action. I like the characters immensely. Marius is a former slave, mostly illiterate but with highly developed fighting skills. Tessa is educated, comes from a noble family and is teaching Marius to read and write, but enjoys reading to him from his favorite books. She is very protective of Marius, and he of her, but there is no ‘will they won’t they’, and I like that. She instead meets Charter, an Inquisitor, and falls for her. The two main characters are both running away; Marius from a live of slavery, Tessa from a different form of slavery at the hands of her own family and an arranged marriage she never wanted.
The good thing – the great thing, actually – about this book is you don’t need to know anything about Dragon Age to get into and enjoy it. Everything you need is explained in the story itself, and not as an infodump. The cities, lands, world, even the magic, are all dropped to you exactly when you need to know about them, and without taking you out of the story itself. That’s artfully done.
Speaking of art, it’s wonderful (none of the over-the-top Marvel and DC styles that turn me off). Everything looks and feels quite real—often times, even gritty but not dark. You have a lot of characters and character designs, but not like a Game of Thrones where you need a spreadsheet and three dry erase boards to keep track of everyone.
The stakes are high and believable for this world with these characters. One of my favorite lines, which becomes a theme of the story, is that magic cheats. I like that a lot. “The problem with magic is that it cheats. It is, at its root, an unfair advantage.” Nearly every time our characters encounter magic, that ends up being true for them. And if you think about it, how many times have you read a story where the magic is the macguffin? It definitely makes you think and reconsider those stories.
As for Magekiller, magic is present, it has an agenda, and people carrying that agenda to its fruition. And Marius and Tessa are there to stop it. This is an excellent addition to the sword and sorcery genre.
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and 2013 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fanzine (Editor - SF Signal), and 2014 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fancast. He lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed. His debut novel, Samantha Kane: Into the Fire is forthcoming from WordFire Press. His Functional Nerds and SF Signal weekly podcasts have both been nominated for Parsec awards, and the SF Signal podcast was nominated for a 2012, 2013, and 2014 Hugo Award. In addition to his Kirkus posts, he writes for atfmb.com, SF Signal and Functional Nerds.