Saturday, May 5, 2012

[review] Faith Hunter - Bloodring (Rogue Mage, #1)

Title: Bloodring
Author: Faith Hunter
Series: Rogue Mage, #1
Publisher: Roc
Format read: Paperback
Source: Local library
Buy from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookdepository
Summary (via Goodreads): 
In a novel filled with lush imagery and exhilarating action, Faith Hunter creates a near-future world caught in the throes of an ambiguous apocalypse - where a woman with everything to hide finds her true destiny revealed. As humanity struggles with religious strife and seraphs and demons fight a never-ending battle, a new species has arisen. "Neomages" are human in appearance, but able to twist left-over creation energy to their will. A threat to both humans and seraphs, they are confined in luxurious Enclaves. Thorn St. Croix is no ordinary neomage. Nearly driven insane by her powers, she is smuggled out of an Enclave and now lives among humans, channeling her gift of stone-magery into jewelry making. But when Thaddeus Bartholomew, a dangerously attractive policeman, tells her that her ex-husband has been kidnapped, Thorn risks revealing her identity to find him. And for Thorn, the punishment for revelation is death.
Random paragraph: "Dry reddish brown residue coated the cracks and vugs of the amethyst. Lucas' blood. I knew that with his blood embedded in the lavender crystal, I could scry for him successfully. I picked up the phone and dialed Rupert. A few minutes later, Audric entered, carrying a sandwich and reeking of pork." (p. 216, paperback edition)

Thoughts: This was a struggle to get into at first. It started off pretty awkwardly, with lots of info-dumps and odd segues from first-person to third-person; the written-out dialects were also questionable. However, once it took off, I found myself sinking comfortably into the post-apocalyptic world that Hunter created.

 I've been craving a book like this for a while -- a book in which a) angels (or seraphs, in this world) were assholes (more like chaotic neutral, but you know, not goody-goody); b) a post-apocalyptic world actually invoked apocalyptic things, with Bible verses for reference. Thorn St. Croix works as a jewelry-maker in Mineral City. The world is in the throes of an ice age; some technology's made a resurface, but not all of it. On SNN (Seraph News Network), the start of the Last War and the last great battle is televised on each anniversary:
In the famous video, the shot tilted as the camera fell and bounced, landed, still running, but resting on the former photographer's body, the seraph framed as he lifted his sword. The photographer's hand appeared at the bottom of the field of view, twitching, changing color to ruby red, then bleeding as capillaries swelled and burst. The twitching stopped. The seraph turned and faced the camera, as if he knew it still recorded him. I didn't have to turn the sound up to remember the famous words as Azrael cursed the city in the name of the Most High. Only one thousand people in the whole of the city of Paris survived the first plague. One thousand.
Thorn is a neo-mage, a "witchy-woman." In this world, neo-mages are sent to live in Enclaves, in the service of seraphs and away from human contact. However, she was driven insane in the New Orleans Enclave from hearing the thoughts of 1200 other neo-mages, and was smuggled to Carolina. She lives undercover -- humans fear neo-mages, and if discovered, she would be sent back to captivity. One day, a cop shows up at her door to inquire about the disappearance of her ex-husband, Lucas. Said cop, Thaddeus Bartholomew, is a kylen -- a half-seraph.

This is where things start getting weird.

When a mage is in the presence of a seraph, s/he goes into "mage-heat." This is something that recurs throughout the book, around Thaddeus and a few of the seraphs. To my great relief, it's never acted upon and is treated as an annoyance; however, its prevalence might turn off some readers. In addition to this, the discovery of a mysterious amethyst is also the source of some... odd... thoughts. Thorn draws her power from stone and earth, and the amethyst is full of it; it drives her to power-drunkenness. Between the heat, the power-drunkenness, and Thaddeus, Thorn just wants to rescue her ex-husband from the claws of Darkness while protecting her daughter from a Daywalker, a rare demon-spawn -- all while concealing her true identity from the townsfolk.

I really enjoyed the domesticity of this; a good chunk of this was dedicated to ordinary people trying to survive in a world that had gone to crap. I liked the little world-building details, such as the kirk (church) services and how wearing bright colors is frowned upon. The time spent elaborating on Thorn's jewelry-making processes and her spells really reminded me of Sunshine by Robin McKinley -- I found that it had a very similar atmosphere. Instead of being linear and straightforward, there were a lot of digressions and attention to mundane things, and while that can fail miserably sometimes I thought it worked beautifully here.

I should also note that there were some great bits of humor, too. At one point, Thorn tries to cast a spell for getting rid of one of her troubles; her incantation backfires and sends chickens into heat instead. I also appreciated that the other characters weren't stupid. At one "great reveal," they guess correctly and go, "Well, it was pretty obvious."

The ending was great. Thorn's final showdown with Darkness, with seraphic help, is pretty damn epic; if I was ever annoyed at the beginning, the battle scenes more than made up for it. I want to read the sequel ASAP.

If you're in the mood for a post-apocalyptic book that actually feels that way, in a Biblical sense, you'd probably want to pick this up.

Overall: 4 stars.

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