I was a big fan of Mercedes Lackey in high school, but that was over a decade ago and I haven’t read any of her books since. Unfortunately, this one kind of bored me. I’m not sure whether that’s because I just outgrew her, or whether her collaboration with James Mallory was lackluster (I’ve never read anything by Mallory, so I’ve got no idea what his books are generally like).
Neither of the two main characters were particularly likable; they were both stereotypical and one-dimensional as fantasy characters go. There were no surprises in the plot. The writing was emotionless and often wooden, even when it tried to convey emotions or action, and the result is a profound lack of emotional investment on the reader’s part. Any of the characters could have died and I honestly wouldn’t have cared.
The book did do one thing well: Bisochim, the Wildmage who wants to restore balance in the world by reawakening forces of Darkness (thereby balancing out the forces of Light, which are currently dominant), is an excellent, nuanced character. Even though he’s set up as the villain of the story, there is some ambiguity about whether what he’s attempting is actually right or wrong. Certainly his intentions and motives are positive; he truly believes that what he’s doing is right, and his reasoning is logical. The reader is left to (mostly) wonder whether he’s just pragmatic to a fault, or whether something nefarious might be influencing his judgment. I appreciate a well-rounded villain with valid (if misguided) motives. Almost nobody sets out to be evil simply for evil’s sake, so authors using that as a motivation always strikes me as a cop-out.
Ultimately, this is a pretty simple high fantasy book in terms of plot, characterization, and writing style. I liked it enough to finish it, but not enough to continue with the sequels.
The Phoenix Unchained by Mercedes Lackey, James Mallory
Series: The Enduring Flame Trilogy #1
Reading Challenge Category: A book you borrowed/received as a gift
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After a thousand years of peace, much Magick has faded from the world. The Elves live far from humankind. There are no High Mages, and Wild Mages are seen only rarely. Bisochim, a powerful Wild Mage, is determined to reintroduce Darkness to the world, believing that it is out of Balance.
Tiercel, a young Armethalian nobleman, is convinced that High Magick is not just philosophy. He attempts a spell--and draws the unwelcome attention of Bisochim. Tiercel survives Bisochim's attack and begins trying to turn himself into a High Mage.
Next in line to be Harbormaster of Armethalieh, Harrier instead finds himself regularly saving Tyr's life and meeting magickal people and creatures. To Harrier's dismay, it seems that he must become a hero.
In The Phoenix Unchained, Harrier and Tiercel begin a marvelous journey to uncover their destinies. Along the way, they meet a charming female centaur, several snooty Elves, and the most powerful dragon their world has ever known.