Saturday, August 4, 2018

Host (Rogue Mage #3) by Faith Hunter

Thorn has managed to find her space in Mineral City- her efforts to save the city have largely won over a lot of the… wary residents. They’re not all her utter fans… but she has her place there

But she’s certainly not safe. She has come to the attention of her old Mage Enclave who have sent their own ambassador - with their own agenda.

But beyond politics there’s always the shadow - and one of the Greater Darknesses are stirring; a power more dangerous than anything Thorn has faced before

I love this world - the world building of this series is amazing and layered (and, frankly, born to be an RPG). I love the layers of different supernatural elements: the apocalypse, the seraphs, the angels of the host (in all their diverse forms - and the level and variety of mythology and examination of the different angels of the host is fascinating and involved. There are so many more than just men with wings. And we’re reminded whoever wrote the Bible with three headed angels with a gazillion wings and just eyes, eyes, everywhere was a very very creative person) and the ongoing consequences of angelic rule alongside battling the dark: what it is like to have an ally who may be every bit as dangerous as the darkness they’re fighting - who may decide to dish out their own judgement. And that’s on top of the complication of the Seraphs having destroyed the majority of the Earth’s population to begin with - do you trust them? With allies like these who needs enemies? And there’s still the ongoing question of whether the angels are what they claim to be. Then there’s a whole lot of religiosity - because end of the world etc, but at the same time they have enforced religious tolerance.

Throw into that a post-apocalyptic ice age with lots of implications as to what that means for society, with technology and society adapting to that

And then we have the witches - the unforeseen, soulless, with powers and a whole history of prejudice and their own community and traditions which are so very different to what humanity has built - and there’s a real effort to give them a whole culture that is very distinctive to them. Not just magic but also their lack of soul and their greater speed and smaller stature. The world building is just exquisite. I love it. I want a thousand stories in this universe to wallow in it.

Thorn herself is an excellent character - a perfectly produced character out of place. She’s lived so long among humans she no longer thinks entirely like a witch, she’s ignorant of so much of her culture and power and traditions - but she’s also intensely aware of her own lack of soul, holding onto a faith (which is so important in the human community she lives in) while also being intensely aware of how, as a soulless being, she’s intensely outside of the trappings of that faith. She faces prejudice from those around her but also a proud acceptance by many after what she’s done. It’s complex and layered and comes with some excellent relationship with powerful friends - and their own complexities

What I don’t get is Rose. Or the prophecy that makes Thorn and her twin so special. I mean, I can get Thorn being upset about her sister being missing because, sibling obviously. But there’s the whole prophecy and power and ominousness around it which I never quite got - and I never really invested in Rose because she just didn’t seem to encroach much in Thorn’s life so it felt kind of pushed in and intruding on the main story

This comes with a battle that is epic in the greatest possible way. Massive consequences, epic battles, the world in the balance, powerful magic and epic on epic on epic. And among the world resting on the battle between light and dark we have some epicly awesome scenes of Thorn also firmly stamping her own presence on the town. Making it her own, making herself a place in Mineral City, building her own home, her own security, her own safety, her own greater family. Her scene about the embassy is perfect - in fact it made me wish to see Thorn build from here without the pressure of the world ending because that would be an excellent story

Thorn has some people around her… and her relationships range from the good to the complex to the problematic. Eli, human potential love interest is fun and I think she bounces off him the best. I also like her relationship with her ex because it IS as complex as it should be. Love interest #3 though is another random magical being and… doesn’t seem to have any point beyond that? I think of him as making up the numbers. Her closest relationships are also the ones I have the most reservations about: I like her relationship with Audric in that it’s supportive, he’s a clear mentor figure: he’s intelligent and skilled and super capable and she definitely respects him. But he’s also a black gay man AND a half-human/half-witch. This makes him completely incapable of sex - which stands out since “mage heat” plays such a major and totally unnecessary part of the book. When we have all these characters ready to have sex at the most ridiculous times it’s dubious that the only character physically incapable of sex is gay. And while he is the authority and head “Champard” so outranks everyone and knows more than everyone, he’s also the most formal… and likely to turn subservient which is a bad luck for the main Black character and only prominent POC character. Richard is Audric’s partner and Thorn’s best friend… but that relationship is all kind of ominous without a lot of connection here - and there’s a hefty amount of sacrifice I’m really not pleased with

There’s one issue which is a real barrier to me in this really awesome book.

It is so word - so descriptive. At times it is beautiful and very descriptive and imaginative and powerful describing this incredible world and the often confusing and complex elements of this world with its dimensions, different elements of the angelic host, the demons, the complex magic and all the levels of politics. In some cases we really need this elaborate description and asides and conversations.

But this book is full of action. Absolutely overflowing with action and power and fight scenes and dimension hopping and angels and darknesses and seraphs and so much power and drama…. And at times I feel like the powers are fighting and Thorn sometimes takes these vast time outs in the middle of epic fight scenes. I feel like powerful powerful demons are rampaging through the town and everyone is rallying to its defence, fighting, dying and there’s Thorn in one corner having a conversation. Or engaging in some exposition. Or having some deep thinky thoughts. Or repeating the last thinky thoughts/exposition sometimes for the third or fourth time

Which is another problem with the descriptiveness - it’s beautiful and involved and elaborate and really showcases this truly amazing world and setting which is among one of the best I have ever ever read, I have to keep repeating that - but it’s sometimes repetitive. And sometimes… unnecessarily explanatory. I feel at times Thorn is made almost lacking in intelligence so she can spell out exactly what is happening and what will happen next REALLY REALLY clearly when it really shouldn’t have been necessary to slowly explain things as much as they are. I do think part of this is because previous books were, perhaps, a little to confusing. But by going too far the other way the book feels like it drags through some of its most dramatic and impressive scenes.