5.0 out of 5 stars reviewed on Amazon
Roped In, Hooked, Waiting for Volume 2!!
I just finished T.B. McKenzie’s The Dragon and the Crow and I am HOOKED! I don’t know when the next volume would be ready, but I hope, hope, HOPE it would be soon! The author has constructed a fascinating hero who deals with other complex characters of mixed ulterior motives and alignments, and they all roped me in and held me to this tale’s end. There is more to the story even after this tale is done, and I agonize already, dreading the wait till the next installment.
Arkadia is a land where everyone can perform some magic – the people do their work with it, they are Named by the magic they can do, and their coin is stored magic in jewel stones. Everyone it seems has magic, except for young Brin, the Mender’s son. He has managed to hide this shameful secret from his peers and his family, and has put plans in place to fool even his town Elders whose task it would soon be to discern what magic he does, determining his calling and his Name. Great powers in Arkadia have noticed Brin however, and his condition as ‘magickless’ figures greatly in their plans – soon Brin will be snatched and flung into the midst of deeds that will determine the fate of Arkadia – but no one will tell Brin the whole story, however. He guesses he is told only enough to be manipulated into achieving their own goals, and so it is up to him to choose which story to believe, which power to align with, and what Arkadia’s fate will be.
T.B. McKenzie had crafted this tale very well, starting with his chosen method of world building. The best way to describe how he showcased the world he built would be the video gamer’s term ‘fog of war’: certain videogames showed the player a map of their immediate surroundings, with the rest of the geography cloaked in a ‘fog’. Once the player accomplished a mission and/or moved location, the map revealed more territory and as such, more information. Likewise, whether the readers wished to begin with the Prologue or go straight to Chapter one, T.B. McKenzie plunged the reader into the middle of everything: the Prologue sent me flying over Arkadia with a wizard in blue, while Chapter one put me in the middle of Brin’s flight from bullies determined to hand him his comeuppance. And so the world came clearer to me the longer I read on, instead of the Tolkien-esque technique of laying down the world’s history in huge chunks independent of whatever a reader may be in story-wise. This ‘fog of war’ technique doesn’t always work – if a world was poorly constructed, the holes in the story become evident fairly quickly. T.B. Mckenzie seemed to have built Arkadia solidly, because every new clue about the world enticed me to read on instead of pointing out to me the holes in the world logic.
Another very strong draw for me as a reader was the nuanced complexity of the characters, starting with Brin – what an arc this poor boy’s consciousness had gone through! I met him first as outwardly the victim of so many: bullied by his peers, with friends who were in no position to aid him, saddled with the knowledge that he had no magic whatsoever and shouldering the expectations of his father, Luther Mender. With his father the town Mender and his elder brother Aiken apprentice Mender, he was expected to follow in the family trade. Because he was loved dearly by both, Brin painstakingly hid his lack of magic from them, making his life even more difficult and lonely. When the great powers moving for and against Arkadia included Brin in their plans, he was incessantly kidnapped, imprisoned, and attacked, and being magickless was unable to defend himself in any significant way. Yet for one so young carrying so embarrassing a secret, a resolute personality emerged from so difficult an early life, and his strength of character saw him through many trials. Just when he thought all has come clear and he knew what to do, he was hit once more with two truths that almost destroy his sense of self, and could possibly take away his life. McKenzie did a variation of this arc for a lot of the main characters; supposed villains are not, supposed heroes are following their own agenda, and those who seem to have gained Brin’s friendship or trust are not all they seem – which wasn’t necessarily to Brin’s detriment.
The up-and-down dynamic for the characters’ story arc was adapted for setting the story’s pace in a way that compelled me as the reader to read continuously till done. The dynamic of tension in the story felt more like a brisk pace in a choppy sea, and each time I crested one wave of conflict and the tension went down, the next ones followed in a fast clip. A good example of this was when Brin met the Illusionist Fennek – I felt sucked into a tale within a tale and I could not stop reading until I could finally understand why Fennek existed in his current state. The story’s endless up-and-down pace urged me on, and I kept reading till I realized the tale was done, yet Brin still had a long way to go in his quest. I enthusiastically declare The Dragon and the Crow HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, I congratulate T.B. McKenzie on an excellent tale, and I impatiently anticipate the coming of the next in the series.
~ By Maria C. Cuadro
Fascinating beginning – I’m looking forward to more.
T.B McKenzie’s first novel – The Dragon and the Crow: Magickless Book One – is a fascinating start to what promises to be an excellent new fantasy series. What I really like about it is the clever world-building McKenzie has done, putting together a well thought-out magic system (such a nice change from so many fantasy novels, where the magic is inconsistent and feels thrown-together) that makes sense and follows the logic of the world. Here, magic is everyday, everyone (except our protagonist) has magic. McKenzie goes to some length to show how that would affect and shape society – magic means the profession you work in. The energy that powers magic is used as the currency of the realm. The ceremony marking the life change from young people who can only use limited magic to adulthood where they can actually cast their own spells is well-thought out and meaningful to the characters and therefore to the reader.
I don’t normally bother commenting on novels, but its important to acknowledge a well-written debut and this is a very impressive start – I’m looking forward to the next in the series.
There is a well thought out magic system. Plus in this world magic pretty much defines you and what you can do. I like how the system is different from any other that I have read in other books. I wonder what is going to happen next with the kingdom and the magicless boy.