The Fire Mages by: Pauline M. Ross
I gave this three out of five stars for a lovely fantasy world, a well defined magic system, and a plot that pulled me through from start to finish.
What I liked:
1) The magic system. It has layers and levels of mysteries. Most of the magical things were defined through the action of the story or in bits of exposition as needed. For the amount of magical material it is a feat that readers are spared from lengthy info dumps. I especially loved the library and the city built for mages. I really thought the dangers in this city for non-mages was wonderfully constructed and made for a great twist towards the end of the plot.
2) The plot. I was rooting for the young Kyra from the beginning, hoping she saves the needed money to attend school and pursue her dreams. It was a fun ride watching her navigate obstacles capable of derailing or destroying her.
3) The fantasy realm. It’s well defined and different enough to feel like a strange and foreign place, but relatable with human customs and behaviors.
What I didn’t enjoy.
1) The protagonist. She was too selfish and emotionally immature for my taste. To me her inability to read other people or empathize with them meant she is at best sitting somewhere on the autism spectrum, or at worst is some form of sociopath. It was detectable in the beginning when she easily loses all sentiments and ties to her family. She was far too willing, and had zero emotional reaction to the contract forcing her to give up her child. It took far too long for her to decipher her attachment to Cal. I also think it’s the only way you can explain a character saying in all sincere honesty to her long-term mentor, “I didn’t know you had a mother.”
2) The lack of dialog. The best scenes in this book are ones where the ongoing action of the story is presented in a scene with dialog. Too many of the dramatic character interactions are filtered as a memory or passively mentioned with major emotions about the other character stated as a fact of how the protagonist felt at the time. It killed my emotional tie to the ongoing action.
3) The romantic pacing. The romantic tie was in the scenes presented, but if more of the moments mentioned in passing had been presented and not filtered, the emotional resolution would have had a greater impact. The ending left me a little cold. If their confessions had come before the final climactic arc, the entire ending would have been more dramatic.