Glynn Stewart’s Hand of Mars picks up a few years after his previous book (Starship’s Mage) left off. The story remains focused upon Damien, who has grown in skills and abilities, but seems to be the same person we saw at the end of the last book.
The story revolves around a planet where a corrupt governor has ironclad control over a planet and has even subverted the Emperor’s appointed military officers. Damien, sent to help one of the Emperor’s Hands of Mars, must investigate, find out the truth, and set things right. What seems like a simple proposition goes rapidly sideways with drastic political and military repercussions.
Damien remains an interesting character, with a strong personal sense of responsibility and an overall sense of integrity. His earnestness, his desire to do what is right, is put to the test… yet at the same time, he never truly has to make a difficult decision. The bad guys in this novel are really, really bad, willing to wipe out tens of thousands or even millions of people, just to get their way. When he confronts them, we have that sense of satisfaction as he brings them to justice… but there’s never any doubt over whether he’ll make the right choice.
I did enjoy watching Damien grow. There was no doubt about where he was headed, growing in both experience and authority, and it was nice to see the character rise in that fashion. Glynn Stewart handled it well, giving Damien time to shoulder more and more responsibility and letting the reader see the character develop.
The side characters in this novel don’t feel quite as engaging as in Starship’s Mage. There it was easier, I think, due to the smaller cast, a single ship with a small(ish) crew. I didn’t feel as much personal attachment to the characters in the sequel, which removed a lot of the dramatic tension regarding their survival. They were interesting, from Hand Stealey to her Marine escort and many of the other characters… but they felt more like a backdrop. This was Damien’s story, and they were here to support that.
Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book. It remained a fascinating read and as always, the magic system and the universe are engaging. I read the book quickly and felt satisfied at the end. It’s a quick, engaging read with good guys confronting the bad. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book and I enjoyed watching Damien’s character grow.
ROGUE MAGE TURNED INTERPLANETARY ENVOY
Three years ago, as Ship’s Mage of the starship Blue Jay, Damien Montgomery was pursued to the edge of human space by both the agents and enemies of the Mage-King of Mars — before being brought in from the cold.
Now, trained in new skills by the Mage-King himself, Damien has been sent to the planet Ardennes alongside Alaura Stealey, Hand of the King. A rebel movement there has destroyed cities fighting a Governor seemingly lost to corruption.
But not all on Ardennes is as it seems. As allies becomes enemies and an entire world comes apart in chaos around him, Damien will find both his skills and integrity tested to the utter limit.
You can get it from Amazon.