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A Murder of Mages, by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: DAW
Published: 2015
Review Posted: 11/22/2015
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated

A Murder of Mages, by Marshall Ryan Maresca

Book Review by Joshua Palmatier

Have you read this book?

A Murder of Mages is the first book in the Maradaine Constabulary series, although there was a previous book called The Thorn of Dentonhill that's set in the same city (with different characters and not dealing with the constabulary). I enjoyed that first book, so of course picked this up and read it right away.

The premise: Satrine's husband, who worked for the constabulary, is waylaid and beaten near to death. Unable to support herself and her children on the pittance the constabulary offers her now that her husband can no longer work, she fakes some papers and takes up a position as a constable in a different section of the city in hopes that no one will recognize her. She's partnered with Minox, an oddball but brilliant investigator who happens to be an untrained mage. The two are presented immediately with the ritual murder of a Circled mage. If they can't find out who's killing mages in the city, it may spark an all-out mage war between the Circles . . . which could spell the destruction of the entire city!

Obviously there's a "Sherlock Holmes and Watson" vibe to the setup, with Minox playing the role of Holmes, but the set-up is where the comparison ends. At first, the story is focused mostly on Satrine, but after a while we get Minox's perspective as well. The two work well together, because both of them are smart and effective at what they do. But the odds are stacked against them. They both have secrets that they don't want revealed, and one of the nice things about the book is that none of the secrets are "played up" in a stupid way.

Minox knows immediately that Satrine is hiding something (even the inspector who hires her knows something isn't right immediately) but everyone chooses to ignore it for their own reasons. Similarly, while some of the other characters are initially introduced as being less than intelligent, as the novel progresses their characters are deepened, so they become more than just clueless secondary inspectors and take on a life of their own. This doesn't meant that they suddenly become smarter than initially introduced, they simply take on other dimensions and you see them as people living their lives. You also see how they became inspectors. They may not be as intelligent, but they have a purpose and they get the job done in their own way.

As for the plot ... aside from the character developments of the two main characters, the murders of the mages are initially difficult to follow. There's a ... looseness in the first half of the book regarding this main plot that doesn't settle down until about a third of the way into the book and doesn't get really interesting until about halfway through. But that's fine, because the characters themselves hold you until that plot kicks in. The world is fully realized and while not everything is explained in this book, the main plot and character threads all come to a satisfactory conclusion.

So an interesting introduction to some great characters that I hope we get to see in many future books. I like the combination of the mystery with the SF elements, satisfying both of my reading genres. I think readers of both genres will enjoy this series.

Joshua Palmatier/Benjamin Tate
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