Publisher: Audible Studios (2014)
Narrator: MacLeod Andrews
Length: 11 hours 27 minutes
Series: Book 1 The Pillars of Reality
Mage Alain is on his first assignment, which is guarding a caravan as it travels through the desert wastes. Alas, desert raiders (Or are they? Pretty heavily armed to be merely bandits.) strike the caravan. Mage Alain does the unthinkable and teams up with Master Mechanic Mari to survive the attack and make it safely to their intended destination. There, Mari heads off to her first Mechanic assignment and Mage Alain must report in to his guild. Further odd occurrences and the blooming friendship between these two continue to pester them both. Their guilds have have nothing but disdain for one another and seniors from each guild worn the two young friends to stay clear of each other.
This was one of my favorite reads of the year, hands down. I am new to Jack Campbell’s work (but I heard him talk at Bubonicon this year, so had to check out this book when the opportunity came my way). The world building was excellent without being tedious. The character development was smooth and complex and deeply fascinating. The plot showed us there are plenty more mysteries to come in this series, and yet, still wrapped up the most immediate mystery and left me feeling satisfied. It was a great listen.
Both Mari (18) and Alain (17) are young for having attained status within their guilds. And their guilds seem to be incapable of letting them forget it. While this can’t be ignored by the plot, I never felt like I was being hit over the head with it. Mari and Alain are young and do make mistakes, but they also approach their work with seriousness and dedication (both of which pay off as it keeps them alive again and again). Both struggle with their pasts, as each was raised within their respective guilds and not by parents. In some ways, Alain’s training was harsher, stripping him of nearly all of his human feelings and therefore, his ability to connect with others. Set next to these two fascinating characters, we have several side characters that I am looking forward to learning more about.
In this world of Dematr, the Mechanics Guild and the Mages Guild have been set against each other for as long as the reader knows. The Mechanics rely on engineering, weights & measures, and logic. The Mages believe the world is but a dream and all but the individual are shadows; nothing is real. This allows them to manipulate the world around them in ways that Mechanics and the Commons (all the rest of us) can scarcely comprehend. The Mechanics and Mages lord it over the Commons and the Commons seem to be tiring of it. There is rumor of revolt building. Questions about guild law and history are frowned upon and rarely answered. It’s a lush world full of secrets and conflict! It was at times heart pounding to listen to Mari and Alain navigate through it.
Without giving much away, the dragons don’t come in to it until very near the end. They are completely worth the wait! some of the most exciting scenes (often coupled with the most humorous scenes due to Alain’s lack of understanding of stressed humans and sarcasm) occurred with the dragons. And let me mention that this book has a bit of a steampunk vibe to it with some of the work the Mechanics do. I am very much looking forward to the next installment in this series.
Narration: MacLeod Andrews did a very good job with this book. I loved his voice for Mari, which was a little throaty for a woman (but, hey, why not?) but also captured her humor perfectly. He also did a fantastic job of pulling off more than one emotionless Mage voice (as required by the Mage culture). As Alain grows and he starts attempting to infuse emotion into his voice, Andrews did a great job of portraying those attempts.
What I Liked: Mari & Alain grow through out the book; great world building; fun plot that left me satisfied for Book 1 but also with enough hints for the continued series; steampunk vibe; the dragons!
What I Disliked: Nothing to report hit – this was a great book!
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