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Mages Are Not Nice People: A Review of Trickster by Jeff Somers

Synopsis:

In a world where all magic is fueled by human blood, mages are not nice people. The level of the effect of a spell is based upon how much blood is used to gas the spell. The limits of the spell an individual mage can cast are based upon the skill, experience and personal power of that mage. For the right mage using enough blood, anything is possible – teleportation, creation, even immortality. Over the course of history, local and even global catastrophes can be chalked up to battles between mages or the ambitions of a single mage.

In this world we meet Lemuel Vonnegan and his companion Pitr Mageshkumar, the mentally-handicapped Indian servant of Hiram Bosch. Lem, when first apprenticed to Hiram, made a vow to himself to never use anyone’s blood but his own. He saw the cost that the use of blood had on the donor, voluntary or not. Years ago, when Lem refused to bleed the girl his teacher had paid to donate a pint or two, Lem’s teacher tossed him out on his ear but refused to remove the geas that bound the two of them. Lem took Pitr (better known as Mags) with him and they began their meager grift.

Since Lem and Mags only use their own blood to cast their spells, a few drops here or a pint there, their magics are all small ones. Mags is only intelligent enough to remember three or four spells at a time, so they constantly live hand-to-mouth in cheap clothes that have seen better days. That is, until the pair unwittingly get drawn into a web of lies, kidnapping and the ambition of an old woman whose fear of death could destroy the world.

Commentary:

Somers is a good storyteller with an interesting story to tell. If this were a stand-alone novel, reading it would be time well spent. Trickster is, hopefully, just the first of a series in this dark urban-fantasy setting.

Lem’s character is wonderfully dynamic as he deals with his self-imposed limitation to do no harm and the question of whether not doing harm is sufficient to make him a good person. Mags’s character is delightfully innocent and fully trusting in Lem for guidance (reminiscent of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men). Holding this responsibility is another struggle that Lem has to handle, for can one person really be worthy of that kind of trust?

The world that Somers has created is dark and gritty, savory on the palate of the imagination. Somers provides just enough detail to make the setting come alive, leaving the reader anticipating the next book to build the environment even further. The flavor of the setting is rather like SyFy’s Lost Girl, substituting Somer’s mages for SyFy’s fae (both being a hidden and rather seedy underbelly of the world with which the reader is familiar).

The dark tone of the book may not suit every reader, but is thought-provoking and rich. The ending of the book is satisfying in many ways, but leaves Lem’s inner struggles not quite resolved – but  the mindful person is always left with the ambiguous notion of how much good is sufficient for one to do and how does one really measure the good and bad consequences of one’s choices over a lifetime.

Trickster by Jeff Somers

ISBN: 9781451696776 from Pocket Books

Scheduled release date: 02/26/2013

Rating: 3.5 flames out of 5

 

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