This story starts out as a typical Medieval action fantasy with stereotypical characters: magician, mute apprentice, legendary hero, berserker warriors. Plenty of magic, violence, and gore. The setting seems simplified, with no extraneous details. Nothing but warriors, victims, and battles. In fact, it all seems so simplified that Montague the Magician begins to get suspicious. Everything appears so much like a story, is there a possibility that he is in the middle of one?
And so begins a “story within a story,” or more exactly, a “reality within a reality” in the style of “Tron.” As the novel progresses, the main characters emerge from their archetypes and become more rounded and more sympathetic. Nolsun, the bumbling comic, gains our respect. Loom, the mute apprentice magician, takes on the role of a leading character. And Montague the Magician reveals a complex personality and a deep ethos. Round this out with a bit of comic relief, a touch of romance and a great deal of action, well-described, and you have an entertaining tale.
On the downside, a complex forward-and-back in the timeline confuses the plot but is forgivable in that it provides tension in slow places. Not enough action? Simple. Drop back into the dungeon cell and add a little more torture.
If I wanted to argue, I’d say this author needs to settle down and polish her writing a bit. She needs to distinguish between the poetic, like, “Her tinkling laughter flowed over him as the first rays of dawn,” and the cutesy; “Montague threw away the knife and his arms around her.” There are also numerous examples of awkward sentence structure, but nothing the help of an experienced editor couldn’t take care of.
In all, a great action story with complex plot twists and enough philosophy to make the actions of the characters important to the reader.