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Book Review: The Hand of Mars by Glynn Stewart

Glynn Stewart's Hand of Mars
Glynn Stewart’s Hand of Mars

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.

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Book Review: Glynn Stewart’s Starship’s Mage

Glynn Stewart's Starship's Mage
Glynn Stewart’s Starship’s Mage

Leo Champion described Glynn Stewart to me as one of the best authors he’s had the experience of working with. Since I also work with Leo, I took that as a bit of a challenge to step up my game, but as a reader, it made me want to check out what Glynn has written, particularly since he seems to be reading my blog and writing book reviews about my stuff.

I’m happy to say I haven’t been disappointed. Glynn Stewart’s Space Opera/Fantasy novel, Starship’s Mage, is excellent. The main character, Damien, is engaging and interesting and Glynn has created a fascinating world, one where technology and magic coexist in a science fiction setting, much like another of my favorite author’s works: Ryk Spoor.

The trials and tribulations of young Damien are vast and varied, as he tries to fix one problem only to create three more in the process. Damien is smart (possibly too smart for his own good), and he is hard working and a loyal friend. He’s also painfully naïve and far too eager to please, which make fun character flaws in a character as powerful as a wizard can be.

Overall, the book definitely feels like the first book of a planned “epic” series. While young Damien grows powerful, we still see that not only does he have limits, but those limits are profound compared to his opponents. The other characters, from ship’s officers to pirates are robust and rewarding in their own ways and in general, it was a fun read.

That isn’t to say it is a “perfect” book. There were a few minor gramatical errors (less, in fact, than some books I’ve recently read from major publishers), but there was also a nagging repetition where some things would be explained multiple times. I can understand the urge, in case the reader wasn’t paying attention, but for me, it actually broke my immersion a little bit as some of the technology and universe was explained once and then again, right before it became pertinent to the story. That said, it’s a very minor pet peeve in a book that I really enjoyed.  (Further note: I hadn’t realized it was originally released as novellas, so it suffers from the same problem as my own Renegades: Origins, so disregard)

My only question, at the end of it, is what do you call this genre? Space Fantasy sounds… trite and doesn’t adequately describe it. It feels like “Hard” fantasy, where the magic has rules and the story revolves as much around those rules as the characters. Science Fantasy just sounds odd. Whatever it is, it’s fun, fast, and enjoyable.

You can pick it up here from Amazon.

In a galaxy tied together by the magic of the elite Jump Magi, Damien Montgomery is a newly graduated member of their number.
With no family or connections to find a ship, he is forced to service on an interstellar freighter known to be hunted by pirates.
When he takes drastic action to save the Blue Jay from their pursuers, he sets in motion a sequence of events beyond his control – and attracts enemies on both sides of the law!

Starship’s Mage was originally released as five separate episodes.