Publisher: 47 North
Release: November 1st 2017
Received: Kindle First
Warnings: Slavery; Rape (implied, not shown); Animal death
I received a free copy of Mark of Fire through the Kindle First program. There’s no requirement for me to leave a review, but I am choosing to do so.
The first thing that caught my attention about Mark of Fire was the beautiful cover – I loved the choice of showing a landscape for the cover of an epic fantasy series. It just feels so appropriate for something that involved and intense. The description further convinced me to give it a try; an epic fantasy that includes a complex magic system and a tale of unrequited love.
Warnings first: There’s a system of slavery in some of the outer towns in this world. There’s a very heavy implication that the female slaves are just used for sex (obviously rape, not consensual at all). There’s even a seen showing naked women being auctioned off, with men joking about how they’ve already been “touched all over” by the men that caught them. Nothing is actually shown, but the implications are more than enough. There’s also some animal death – mostly horses dying in battle. Thankfully they’re not as detailed as the other scenes I’ve described.
Mark of Fire is being described as the Epic Fantasy of the year, and when I saw the pretty cover and interesting description, I was inclined to agree. If you’re looking for a quick read about a world with a complex magical system, then this may be the perfect book for you. But if you’re looking for a book with in depth character development, then maybe this isn’t the book for you.
I’ll admit I was actually disappointed by this series. I don’t read too many epic fantasies lately (mostly because it feels like they’re so few and far between) but I was really looking forward to this one. While I loved the magical system shown I feel like more could have been done with it. For example our one character perspective with the ability (Carol) starts off without ever being allowed to use magic. So understandably she’s pretty behind. She then gets involved in magic, but mostly she’s only ever used to bolster other magic user’s abilities. And finally she ends up losing her magical ability all together. Presumably it’s only temporary, but I was still annoyed by this.
I felt the character development was lackluster, we have two characters that are meant to be madly in love with each other, but other than having them directly tell the reader that there’s really no way we would have known it. I felt absolutely no attachment to any of the characters, and so I wasn’t worried when one of them found themselves in danger or on the verge of death. Which is really a shame. I feel like if the characters had been development more (it is a series after all, plenty of time to take a moment and let us get to know them) then we may have appreciate the circumstances they were in a bit more.
On a funny side note; I read the acknowledgement at the end of the novel and had a funny realization. The author thanks his wife, Carol, and his best friend John Ty Warner. In case you were curious why I found that amusing; I’ve just listed to you three of the character names from this book (Carol, John, and Ty). It’s nice that Phillips likes his family/friends enough to give them such prominent roles in his series.
I’m uncertain if I would continue reading this series, given a choice. I may be tempted to give it another chance, especially if I was told that the characters were developed a bit farther. I truly do believe that the magical system and world itself have a lot of potential – I just hope that Phillips takes advantage of said potential and does something truly unique with it.