“Source Mage” is a tightly written, fast paced action adventure set in a post-apocalyptic world of declining military resources and increasing magical influence.
This writer knows his weapons and his modern battle terminology, and he accomplishes the difficult blend between the mundane and the supernatural and keeps the conflict realistic. It’s a tightrope walk, making machine guns an even match with a mage’s powers. Mr. Stacey manages it by careful limitations on the scope of magic. Certain powers are restricted to certain beings, and limited by the amount of energy they use. So, while a mage may be able deflect AK-47 bullets, his endurance is finite, and sooner or later, one will get through. Individual gun battles can coincide with demons tearing each other to pieces in aerial combat. This means it feels completely natural that the final conflict can be a swordfight between the hero and her former lover.
This also means the story has a variety of levels of conflict. The inner struggles of Angie, the main character, revolve around both her social connections with the other characters and the growing suspicion that her nascent magical powers are something very unusual. The external conflict ranges from character-against-character through group loyalty issues and tribal friction to the global conflict between the fey, the humans, and the followers of some mysterious set of gods that nobody has heard of before. This leaves plenty of scope for action and suspense. The ultimate conflict is thematic: the question of family, personal, and political loyalties and how difficult it is to juggle them.
My one complaint is the unpolished writing style. A reviewer has to expect a few grammar errors in an Advance Review Copy, but the prose problems go deeper than that, indicating the lack of an editor. For example, using the word “weapon” three times in four sentences suggests that no other eyes have looked over this MS. Another example; you can’t stab someone in the back of the throat so the tip of your sword comes out the jugular. The proper term would be the back of the neck, and the spinal column would get in the way.
Other than these minor rough patches, this is a well-written book with plenty of action, sympathetic characters, and universal ideas that can be applied it the smaller scene of our daily lives.
This book was originally reviewed on Reedsy Discovery.