This series starts with Starship’s Mage: Omnibus. Newly-graduated Jump Mage Damien Montgomery is fully qualified to transport ships through space with his magic. Unfortunately, he lacks the family connections to actually get hired. Captain David Rice of the interstellar freighter Blue Jay needs a jump mage but is forbidden by the Governor of Sherwood to hire one. Working together, they face enemies old and new – on both sides of the law – as they haul cargo throughout space.
This is a fun book, full of space pirates, augmented humans and a wide variety of planetary cultures – many typical elements of space opera. Stewart has created a reasonable and well-thought-out universe, and explains its history and background adequately for the storyline. I especially liked Damien’s unique type of magic and the depictions of how its use impacted the mage. Stewart also portrays Captain Rice’s character, morals and leadership qualities quite well. He does a good job with the minor characters as well.
Having the freighter constantly chased away from worlds got a little old, however; it seemed that Rice and his crew took forever to find a safe haven and avoid their enemies. Also, Stewart explained some plot elements by switching points of view a few times, but took a long time to come back to those individuals, which I found annoying.
Overall, this is an enjoyable book and a good start for the series.
In Hand of Mars, Damien Montgomery has now trained under the Mage-King of Mars for 3 years. His first official duty takes him to the planet Ardennes, planning to shadow Alaura Stealey, Hand of the King as she investigates a rebel uprising on the planet. His plans change, however, when events on the planet force him to accept responsibilities he wasn’t expecting.
Once again, Stewart has written an enjoyable book with interesting characters. Instead of traipsing through several star systems as in the 1st book, the action centers on 1 planet, which Stewart describes sparsely but adequately. Although one of the most powerful Mages in the universe, Damien often seems tentative with his powers and responsibilities, but comes through when necessary. The point of view changes make more sense in this book, but the various military vessels were not as well-described. Good action scenes and character relations made up for these spotty descriptions.
The Voice of Mars sees Damien Montgomery, Hand of the Mage-King of Mars, once again being sent to resolve a conflict. This time it’s a potential war between two planets, one being his home world of Sherwood. Mystery, danger and possibly love await him.
Wow! Of the 3 books in the series so far, this one is the best. Damien and his crew see action and tension throughout the book, with little rest between engagements. Both planets involved have secrets, with a zinger revealed at the very end. Damien has finally come into his own as a Hand and shows none of the hesitancy from the last book, although he must now deal with nightmares caused by his duties – character growth that makes the book even more interesting. I also liked how Sherwood named all their ships based on the Robin Hood stories. Considering that the book takes place several hundred years in the future, it’s nice to think that these legends would still be around after all that time. My only objection is that the descriptions of battleships is a little too detailed. Greater fans of space battles may disagree with me, but I think the encounters could have been fought without all the information provided.
In Alien Arcana, the fourth book of the series (so far), Damien returns to Mars, and discovers a disturbing truth about the Protectorate and his fellow Hands. He must make difficult choices, some of which may fracture the nation.
Damien continues his personal growth in this book, facing difficult choices and accepting the consequences of those choices. As in previous books, the characters are well-written and the action exciting. Since most of the story takes place on only 1 planet, the overwhelming descriptions of battleships are (thankfully) minimized.
I greatly enjoyed these books and wish Stewart would hurry up and finish the story!
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