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The Gossamer Mage
by Julie Czerneda
Daw, $27.00, 387pp
Published: August 2019

A fascinating new fantasy from one of my favorite authors.

In this world magic is a fact of life but in a pretty different concept than you usually find in fantasy.  The magic in this place belongs to the Deathless Goddess.  Men who have the ability to make magic are Mages but women who hear the Goddess become her voice; a sort of check and balance.  Mages have to give up a bit of their own life force each time they practice magic; causing them to age before their time. It is the Goddess who demands the toll. When She finds the need to correct a mage, She sends a woman to be Her voice – this being a one-way trip for the woman. You would think the mages would horde magic as preciously as gold; but for the young and impetuous, the compulsion to create magic is too strong to deny.  Maleonarial is one mage tired of seeing others wither and die or lose their minds, and he has decided that the Goddess has to be destroyed.

Kait is gifted by the Lady, as the women refer to Her, and could find herself called to service.  She lives in Tilers’s Hold, and her Lord is her cousin, Insom. But there are unsettling things happening in the Hold.  None of the women can hear the Goddess anymore and they fear the Hold has been abandoned.  Worse, Kait is the only one who hears the stones of the keep muttering.  And, on top of all that, her cousin doesn’t seem to be himself and the changes are frightening.  She is sent to the Mage school to find answers but she’s not altogether sure to whom she is reporting: her Lady, her Lord Insom or something else, unseen.

When Mages write magic, they are writing an intention – a desire.  It might be a jug that never runs dry, a deathless frog to keep down the insect population, a horse team that never tires and for this bit of magic they are well-paid. If the intention is not properly written, they get, instead, a bit of wild magic called Gossamers.  Gossamers are known to be beloved by the Goddess and, while sometimes a nuisance, they are not usually harmful.  The creatures bring wonder and beauty to the world.  An experienced Mage writes less Gossamers and are more in demand for their ability to write a true intention.  Maleonarial has withdrawn from society and uses his ability only to find a way to destroy the Goddess; so far he hasn’t had any luck.  And when a monster is found to be destroying a village, he is the first suspect.  When he has to find the truth to both clear his name and avenge an old friend killed by the monster, he is astonished to learn that he was indirectly responsible for creating the monster.  Ironically, the event gives him great insight into how he might finally defeat the Goddess.

Also, ironically, he is the only one to whom Kait can turn to defeat the evil that threatens the Goddess and, ultimately, their world.  And Maleonarial will have to decide if he is right about the Goddess or if he’s just been looking at it all wrong.

The world-building was fun and the characters were interesting.  The pace and tone of the story were a bit different – it made me feel as if the reader was being kept at arm’s length, I can’t really explain it well.  I enjoyed the tale and I appreciated the twists at the end but I didn’t feel really immersed in the story.  It was enjoyable but not as wonderful as the author’s other efforts.   ~~ Catherine Book

For more titles by Julie Czerneda click here here

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