If you follow me on goodreads, you know that my ratings of books is fairly arbitrary. I don't have a set of hard rules governing what book gets what rating. It's a totally subjective process based entirely on what I liked and didn't like. And sometimes, if a book sticks with me, I go back and change my rating, usually to bump it up.
I haven't changed my review or rating of Steel Victory, but I did reread it before getting into Steel Magic, and while my review stands, I did enjoy it even more the second time though. But rereading it, and then reading Steel Magic directly after did make me think about how I assign ratings, and it caused me to come up with a rule: If it keeps me up all night reading it (or I take the audiobook out of the car to finish it), the book gets 5 stars. Now... on to the review.
Steel Magic 5/5 Stars
tldr: Fast paced sequel to Steel Victory kept me up reading way too late, and now I want book 3.
Disclaimer: I read an advanced reviewer copy of this book from the author, who is both a friend and one of the players in my Friday night D&D game. Didn't stop me from buying a copy for me and one to give away.
Funerals are usually the end of the story, not the beginning.
Newly graduated warrior-mages Toria Connor and Kane Nalamas find themselves the last remaining mages in the city when a mage school teacher mysteriously falls ill and dies. But taking over the school themselves isn't in the cards. They're set to become professional mercenaries-if they make it through the next 18 months as journeymen first.
The debate over whether to hunt mutated monsters in the Wasteland or take posh bodyguard jobs is put on hold when a city elder hires them to solve the mystery of the disappearing mages. Toria and Kane's quest brings them to the British colonial city of New Angouleme, where their initial investigation reveals that the problem is even greater than they feared.
But when a friend is kidnapped, they'll have to travel to the other side of the globe to save her, save themselves, and save magic itself.
Steel Magic begins and ends with death. It's a fast paced too short book that leaves you wanting more. More time with the characters, more pages spent on exploring this world ravaged by war, and more on the twisted and failing magics. The story told here in a mere 184 pages contains enough elements that a lesser novelist would have spent a trilogy of 500 pages bricks to fully entice you in and then bore you with by the end. Here, the author clearly has other plans, and the break neck pace will leave you gasping by the end... for multiple reasons.
Getting to see more of the world outside of the city-state of Limani was a treat, especially as I'd been intrigued by the political makeup of this alternate reality where the Roman Empire never fell and it and the British Empire are the dominant players (at least around the setting of the first book) is an interesting setup. (note to the author: GIVE ME A MAP!! Please!!!) I also really enjoy finding out about more of the magic and magical creatures of the world, and seeing what twists the author has put on old ideas.
What really makes the book though is the strong personalities of the characters. You really know who these people are, you get the voice that they speak with, and their reactions ring true. I can't wait to see where Kane and Toria and their friends and family (not necessarily overlapping circles) go from here.