Book Review: The (sort of) Dark Mage

Welcome all, to the first iteration of Uncle Drew’s Bookey Time Corner. This is where I spread the love of literature a bit by telling you all about a novel I picked up and really enjoyed. I’ll link the books as well, so if I piqued your interest, I encourage you to go give it a look-see. But first, some guidelines of what to expect:

1. No Negative Reviews: While I’ll touch on things I might not have liked about a book in particular, I never intend to put up a book on here for the purpose of tearing it apart. If I review a book, it’s because I think it’s worth reading. Bad books just get ignored.

2. Indie Focus: I am going to try and make these segment focused on indie books, because as an indie author myself I feel an obligation to spread the love. That said, I’m like a five-year old when it comes to excitability, so if I fall in love with a novel that’s traditionally published, I’ll probably still do a piece on it.

3. E-books Only: I'm sticking to the digital frontier, in that everything I look at will have an e-book available. They might have print editions as well, but if it can't be scooped up over an internet connection after purchase then you won't find it here.

That said, let’s jump into my first review. It’s over a little book called:

The (sort of) Dark Mage

by Nelson Chereta

Right off the bat I have a confession to make: I fucking adore comedic fantasy. When done well, it’s probably my favorite overall genre. Terry Pratchett, Robert Asprin, and A. Lee Martinez are all authors who hit right in the sweet spot and whose works I can read over and over. Nelson Chereta isn’t quite to their level yet, but for a debut novel it reeks of potential.

A two sentence synopsis: Waldo Corpselover must undertake a perilous magical journey to prove his worth to the evil council running the evil kingdom in which he was raised. Along the way he acquires a few friends, many enemies, and ample obstacles.

What Was Good

Characterization: This is probably the spot where the novel shines brightest. Each character in the novel has a unique voice, style, almost aura, that brings the setting to life. Even smaller, more minor characters are distinct from the others around them, and the larger ones are well-painted portraits.

World-Building: Definitely felt like a real place, stocked with actual people, and didn’t go overboard on description. Nothing bugs me more than when fantasy authors spend half a novel trying to set up their kingdom. Nelson Chereta uses minimal words, but still does an excellent job of creating the sort of place where Waldo’s misadventures could reasonably occur.

Style: I really enjoyed Nelson’s writing style, it was simple, yet conveyed necessary information and description. Plus it was funny. Especially in the dialogue between characters, there were humanizing traits and tics that served both the humor and the story as a whole.

What Was Iffy

Plot: This book really straddled the line for me, because it was both very predictable and yet somehow still surprising. What I mean is that the big plot points are telegraphed incredibly far ahead, so much so that anyone with a little experience reading will know the outcome to any obstacle chapters ahead of the character reaching it. However, the method for reaching that outcome often kept me on my toes. I suppose it speaks to enjoying the journey more than the destination: Even though you know where you’ll end up, the process of getting these is pretty darn fun.

What Needed Improvement

Pacing (I Think): I’m not quite sure how to frame this one, because I don’t know the category it falls under. Basically, the one genuine issue I had with the book was that it was the first one in a series, and there is zero indication of that given by the author. Not a forward, nothing in the title or on the cover, nada.

Now, I love a series, and if this book had run to its end and then left a fee doors open, I’d have been overjoyed. But it didn’t. It didn’t even wrap up the central conflict of the novel I was reading. It barely finished a mini-arc. Essentially, what I read wasn’t really part of a series, it was part one of an incomplete book.

And I would have been 100% okay with that if I’d known it going in, the book is already more than long enough to justify the cost. But to go through all that build-up and have no real resolution sprung on you at the last moment, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth that can easily sour the experience as a whole.

Final Thoughts

Overall, if you like comedic fantasy, I highly recommend you check this one out. Just go in knowing you’re only getting the first half of a novel, or wait until the next one is out. With the right mindset going in, it is a fun, light read that will make you happy you spent the $3 it costs on Amazon.