Book Review: The Magic Mines of Asharim By: Pauline M. Ross
I give this book four out of five stars for it’s witty and flawed heroine, the authors talent in creating a foreign yet relatable world, and lovely new creatures who are more than just part of the setting.
Things I liked about the book:
1) The magic and fantastical creatures, especially the flickers. They played an important role in the story and they added a great deal to the setting. I liked how the heroine came into some of her magic abilities during the course of the book and it was a natural process. Some of my favorite displays of magic came when the heroine fled the mines. What actively created new tunnels and walls, or watched her in the shadows of an underground city? It was fun to think about the underground room with the reflecting floor and guessing which of the characters was right about what it housed. I could not understand why extinct mages had trapped an entire race of people’s sexual desire; it’s a different concept and added a lot of tension for part of the story.
2) This is a stand-alone novel. In a sea of series books that comprise most of the Fantasy genre, here’s one you can pick up and be happy the story is all contained inside one cover.
3) There is tremendous world building in this book, and it was nice to see how the tensions between the cultures collided and intertwined with the plot. I especially enjoyed the time spent in the mines, and the magic city around the mine. The journey along the canals and the journey up to the lake were well done.
What I thought could have been better:
1) The overuse of narrative exposition. I’m usually lenient on epic fantasy when it comes to exposition narrative and the descriptions of places, however the narrative used in this work tended to override action being shown or oddly there was one instance where it cut it off. I really enjoyed parts of the story, and because of this I paid attention to where my interest waned. The key culprit was always the author telling me and not showing me the action. The author has a talent in providing a picture of where each scene takes place. This level of detail combined with exposition narratives really made parts of the book feel too long. There were things described that were entirely irrelevant and added little value to the story. One example is characters walking down a hallway to bed; nothing happens between the characters and nothing-unexpected takes place during the walk. This little walk was a page and a half of nothing important to the story. It’s the kind of thing where if nothing happens, or if the location has no impact on the character or the story, then it needs to be cut or summarized.
2) My own views about sex are reflected in my negative opinion of the heroine, and the outcome of the story. There’s a lot of sex in this novel, don’t worry all you haters of sex in books it’s not graphic. It’s also not the prolific amounts of sex that bother me. I disliked the way the heroine treated those who became attached to her because of the sexual relationships she started. She pursued sex with Hyi when she knew she didn’t love him, and I hate how she compromised her self worth with Zak. I’m still reflecting on all the ways sex influenced the action in this book, which I consider a good thing. This book has given me something to think about, but even though I’m thinking about it, I can’t help the way I baulked and was disappointed with the ending. There’s this big emotional journey, so much material spent on the relationships and heartbreak, but in the end it’s all tied up in one neat little scene. One scene, just one, and the heroine’s off skipping down halls all happy and cool being a third wheel. I felt so cheated by this. I think I would have been happier if she ended up alone. Really, based on her actions, this would have been the more realistic ending. As a side note, if the sex were more graphic, this book could be launched as an erotic romance, a very twisted erotic romance. With so much of the book focused on the heroine’s relationships and her ability to read others emotions, turning this into an erotic romance is not a stretch, and that stuff sells.
3) The heroine’s goals seem inconsistent. At the front of the book she’s hiding. Then her lot changes and suddenly she’s embracing a danger she had taken great care to avoid. Then her focus shifts and she’s out to save her homeland, which her internal thoughts claim were her long-term goals all along, and I’m scratching my head thinking I didn’t remember any of that. Then she doesn’t care if she survives or if she’s conveniently elevated into an entirely new job. This inconsistency, and hiding the protagonists “grand plan” bothered me and seemed silly. As a reader I want to root for the protagonist, but it was hard in this book when I didn’t always know or was confused about what to root for.
Overall I think the strengths of the book out weighs its weaknesses. It’s a fantastic journey and the parts well done were really well done.
*Special note for those sensitive or opposed to reading about rape and sexual violence. There is difficult scene where the heroine is chained up, beaten, and raped multiple times while also witnessing the rape of a child.
I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.