How long does it take for a book to become a favorite? If it’s measured in time, then this book doesn’t qualify, for it’s only been out for seven weeks. But if it’s measured in re-reads, then this book surely has become one for me, for I’ve already read it five times and loved it more each time. I’d like to share it with those of you who joined me in singing the praises of Robin McKinley’s Beauty.
Lynn Kurland has made a name for herself in time travels and paranormals for the last 12 years, with every single one of her books still in print. But in my opinion, she has outdone herself, and The Mage’s Daughter is the best so far.
I love the way this fantasy tells a story of good versus evil, yet you are not dragged down by the darkness that is trying to overtake this world. Rather, you experience the emotions and thoughts and feelings of the characters as THEY deal with the evil that is thrown at them. You’re also given the chance to share in their victories, just as you share in their conversation and laughter when they’re warm and safe around the fire.
I love the way the magic is a silvery ribbon that winds through characters that are still so human that they effortlessly become my friends. They have magic and know spells, but they use them in the same utterly human ways that you or I use our knowledge and skills.
The Mage’s Daughter may be the second in a trilogy, yet the story told in this book isn’t ruined by the fact that it’s part of a larger story. Its beauty is in the romance, unwillingly begun in the first book, now finally allowed to grow and blossom into something truly beautiful in this one – yet still holding promise for the end of the trilogy. This story’s beauty is also in the exquisite writing and world-building, both of which draw you into the Nine Kingdoms in such subtle ways that you end up wondering how you know so much about this world, when you’ve never been asked to stop and listen to an explanation. Instead, you’re given a chance to see and experience this world solely through the eyes of the sheildmaiden and the mage, and to experience an adventure and a love that will linger in your mind until you can no longer keep from starting on page one again.
Morgan is the shieldmaiden. She was an orphan who buried her childhood so completely that she lost all memory of who she’d been. She simply knew that she hated "magic in general and mages in particular," and considered "finger-waggling" to be the coward’s way to fight. Taught by Weger, the famed sword master who shared her hatred of magic, her sword skill grew until there were few, if any, who could match her.
Miach is the youngest of seven brothers, the eldest of whom is the king of powerful Neroche. He was only fourteen when the mantle of archmage fell upon his capable shoulders, and he has spent the intervening years quietly and unassumingly bearing the responsibility of protecting the realm.
But the day came when a new, unrelenting assault against his spells began. The same day, his brother lost his kingly magic, as well as the ability to call to the magic that is bound into the Sword of Neroche. Miach decides that a wielder must be found for the Sword of Angesand – someone with the magic of Camanae in their veins – the wielder that Meher of Angesand had forseen centuries earlier.
Book one, called Star of the Morning, is the story of how Morgan learns that there is magic in her blood and she cannot run from it. It is the story of how Miach sets out in disguise to search for the weilder, and instead finds love. As Morgan is taken farther and farther away from the life she embraced, and deeper and deeper into nightmares that hint of the life she ran from, she comes to depend on Miach in a way that she frankly finds more than unsettling. Miach doesn’t mind, but he is all-too-sure of what Morgan will think when she finds out who he really is.
I won’t give away the scope and story of Star of the Morning, but this is where The Mage’s Daughter begins.
Morgan, weak in body from the poison of a black mage and sore in heart from the treachery she thinks Miach dealt her, runs back to Weger’s tower to regain her strength for swordplay and to be free from the unwelcome magic that now rages through her veins. But when Miach sets the fate of the realm aside to follow her inside the magicless Gobhann, she begins to realize that even here, things aren’t as they’ve always seemed.
Morgan must face the fact that the man she loves is not only the simple man who prefers to be underestimated, he is also the archmage of the realm who spends his weary nights shoring up the spells that keep the evil in the north from overrunning the Nine Kingdoms. He is not only her Miach, he is the man of whom it is said, “I have lived centuries and seen mage after mage walk across the world’s stage, and Prince Mochriadhemiach stands alone before them all.” And he is not only willing to go to almost any length to protect the realm, he is willing to go farther to have her, and farther still to protect her.
There is so much more I could say. So many secondary characters come to life in such a way that you find yourself longing to read their stories. I could try to portray the humor that makes you smile and laugh over and over again, even on the fifth read. I could give examples of the many surprises that are more satisfying than the story progression you were expecting ever could have been. I could even talk about the scope of kingdoms and magnificent throne rooms that come to life in your imagination. But that would ruin the story for you.
So I’ll merely say that this is the story of a strong woman who loses that strength, and begins to find it again as she learns to accept both who she is and her destiny. It is the story of a man who must also face the fact that he cannot protect his love from the danger that waits along their path. And it is the story of two people who are humbled to slowly discover that elves and mages born centuries ago are still watching them, for the fate of the Nine Kingdoms is in their hands.