Alexandra MacKenzie – Marlen

As an immortal, you would have to give up your family and friends when they died and you didn’t. In The Trouble with Mages: Immortal Quest by Alexandra MacKenzie and published by Edge Publishing, one immortal mage named Marlen has been pursuing a relationship with a mortal named Nick. Each time Nick dies, he is reborn but forgets his previous life until Marlen helps him remember it. Sometimes they have a relationship together and other times they don’t.  

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I scoff at romantic notions like a relationship that lasts on and off again over five hundred years. Yet, Marlen pursues this relationship so sweetly and clumsily, only because he loves this one person, that even my heart melts at this story. He could do anything with all of time available to him, yet the only thing worth pursuing to him is this one relationship, from page 193:

“I know you happen to believe that I’m a lazy, good-for-nothing fool, but what you don’t know is that I’ve spent my five hundred good-for-nothing years trying to do the one thing I thought had any meaning in this world. I tried to love someone.”

Marlen’s devotion sets him apart from the modern era, in which this story is set, and from the other characters in this story. His scatter brained activities, putting everyone in danger by releasing a powerful mage and keeping information from Nick, could make Marlen only an obstacle to Nick but his love and devotion actually elevate Marlen.

 

Barb and J.C. Hendee – Leesil

Who can’t root for someone looking for redemption? When we are first introduced to Leesil, he engenders very little sympathy. He steals from peasants with his partner Magiere, and then uses the money to drink, not thinking beyond that night.

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Then we learn that he has skills with knives that enable him to kill, steal, and fight in relative secrecy and he becomes interesting. How did he come by these skills?

The guilt that drives him to drink is a result of betraying his mother and father because he couldn’t be what they needed him to be. He is at heart a decent person who just wants to get along with people and help them. It’s this decency which led to his betrayal and his guilt.

He had to make a choice between continuing to destroy himself or destroying his family. He chose to destroy his family and in doing so, began a new path to destroying himself.

That, of course, is where Leesil begins in the story. I haven’t finished reading the series, but now that he’s started on a new path to redemption, does he continue?

 

Barb and J.C. Hendee – Magiere

What does one do when he or she doesn’t believe in vampires but everyone around them does? Magiere chose to become a vampire hunter in Dhampir by Barb and J.C. Hendee. With the help of her associate, half-elf half human Leesil, they travel the countryside taking money from small villages to get rid of vampires. Leesil acts as the vampire.

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It’s not often anymore that the main character of a novel starts off as an outright con artist and ultimately thief with no reason noble for it such as feeding their siblings. I suspect nowadays this novel’s beginning would have been edited to make the main characters more sympathetic. Yet somehow Magiere stuck with me even many years after reading it the first time. When I saw it as a used book, I snatched it up and re-read it.

Magiere wants to move on, start again and run a legitimate business. She’s tired of being on the road and wants a place to settle down.

Why switch? Why abandon her con-artist ways? Her practicality. She has an essential practical nature. If someone is dumb enough to believe old tales, then taking their money from them is natural, just like eventually it isn’t practical to be on the road anymore.

That adherence to practicality then makes it hard for her to accept that she is a Dhampir and that there are actually vampires when her teeth elongate and a killing rage happens within her. It is even harder for her to accept that there are vampires.

What I like though is that she doesn’t get any redemption for her past transgressions against the villagers in the first three books. I have yet to read book four or five. She lives with her past actions, guilt creeping in for her previous practises, as she gets to know the people in her town and sees the impact her actions would have had on her victims.

Humans do bad things and there’s no one there to give us redemption. We have to live with those actions.

Brandon Sanderson – Kaladin

People, myself included, have an ability to pretend that their decisions don’t have consequences for themselves, that the bad things that have happened to them in their lives are the results of other people’s decisions or actions against them. This willingness to give up control over their own lives to other people or institutions seems to give them an “out.” It’s not their fault. It’s the fault of other people.

The Way of Kings has been sitting on my shelf for years. Brandon Sanderson was a guest at When Words Collide 2014 and I, along with many others, received a free copy of this book. It’s sat there because the book is big and time has been short. Ironically, when time is shortest now that I have a kid, I decided to read this book and I’m glad I did, all because of Kaladin, my favourite character.

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Kaladin dreamt of being an honourable soldier when he was a child and carried those dreams right into his life as a soldier. Considered lucky or stormblessed, people followed him because they have a higher likelihood of surviving with him. Being considered lucky set up the belief that others, spirits or deities, acted on him to bring this good fortune. So when his “luck” turned, when he became a slave and then a bridgeman, he wondered why all these bad things were happening to him. Why have the gods targeted him so? On page 993, Kaladin says “The Almighty cursed the Lost Radiants for betraying mankind. What if I’m cursed too, because of what I’m doing?”

Kaladin’s journey comes to a point where he has to decide if he is a victim or the architect of where he is right now. Did the decisions he made prior result in his current situation?

His journey is so interesting to me, especially when all that he does is try to act honourably. I have always believed that people should act fairly. However, making honourable choices can have unpleasant or negative consequences. For example, by choosing to pick up a co-worker’s slack, you hide from your supervisor that co-worker’s negligence. Do you support the team and just get the work done or do you let the client down and allow that negligence to come to light? Either one has unpleasant consequences for you and your team but ultimately the choice is yours.

Our choices have consequences, no matter the intent that informed them.