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The Innocent Mage: Kingmaker, Kingbreaker    by Karen Miller order for
Innocent Mage
by Karen Miller
Order:  USA  Can
Orbit, 2007 (2007)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Karen Miller's The Innocent Mage is set in the Kingdom of Lur, sealed off for over six centuries to the north by a mountain range and by the magical construct, Barl's Wall, against the evil power of Morg. Two races co-exist in Lur. The fair-haired Doranen came across the mountains, fleeing a horrific conflict between warrior mages. The native Olken - to whom magic is now forbidden by the Doranen - gave them refuge. The Doranen ruler of Lur must be magically adept as his or her regular - and debilitating - WeatherWorking keeps the kingdom prosperous and also feeds Barl's Wall, protecting them from the horrors beyond it.

As the story opens we meet Asher, the youngest son of a fisherman, who has long been abused by his elder brothers. Asher has decided to seek his fortune in the capital, the great walled city of Dorana, planning to return one year later, buy his own fishing boat, and care for his beloved old Da. Asher leaves Restharven quietly and secretly, to avoid being stopped by his brothers, but asks his best friend Jed to explain to his father. Readers also are made aware that Asher is the Innocent Mage of prophecy, long awaited by the Circle, a group of practitioners of subtle Olken 'soft and singing earth magic', who are led by old Veira.

Plain-faced, sharp-eyed, acerbic, intense Dathne is a bookseller in Dorana and is also Jervale's Heir, responsible for guiding the Innocent Mage. She orchestrates an encounter between Asher (seeking a job in Dorana) and young Prince Gar, considered crippled by his people for his lack of magical ability (the kingdom's heir is Gar's magically talented but rather nasty sister Fane). Gar hires Asher to assist Matt (who is also Dathne's Circle assistant) in his stables. King Borne has given Gar the role of Olken Administrator, and he gradually involves Asher in his work.

As the story develops, we see Asher grow into the role and into a deep friendship with the prince, who appreciates his brusque honesty, telling him 'not even my enemies are as rude as you. At least not to my face.' Gar becomes the brother Asher wishes he'd had all his life so that, when the year is up, he's torn between his vow to return to Restharven and his loyalty to his new friend. But, as always for the Innocent Mage, fate leaves him no choice. Then an opening for evil is created by temptation in the form of the discovery of Barl's lost library, and it's clear - to the reader at least - that the Final Days will soon be upon the people of Lur.

The first in this Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duo ends on a cliffhanger, with an attack on the monarchy disguised as an accident, and Asher still unaware of his destiny (despite Matt's objections to Dathne). The story of The Innocent Mage, a solid fantasy with unique elements and an engagingly roughshod hero, continues in The Awakened Mage.

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