Audiobook Review: Bloodmage by Stephen Aryan
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Book 2 of The Age of Darkness
Publisher: Hachette Audio (April 12, 2016)
Length: 16 hrs and 5 mins
Narrator: Matt Addis
After the great time I had with Battlemage, and given my fondness for epic fantasy audiobooks, I decided to switch formats for the second book of the Age of Darkness series and give Bloodmage a try in audio. I was pleased to find that it worked very well, even though the sequel is a very different kind of story from its predecessor.
Bloodmage takes place in the aftermath of the first book, and some months have passed since the great battlemage war. However, the world still lives under dark times, and they’re about to get even darker. A string of disturbing murders have put the city on high alert and the Guardians of the Peace tasked to investigate are baffled by the strange way the victims were killed. At one of the crime scenes, Guardian Byrne finds a corpse entirely drained of life. Soon after, he takes on a protégé named Fray, who is also the son of his former mentor and a powerful magician still learning to master his talents. Together they search for clues to find the killer, and discover that pieces of the puzzle may actually lie in the past.
Meanwhile, Choss, a champion fighter, is involved at an arena where one of the gruesome incidents took place. The incident has not helped the tensions in the underworld, where a secret war has been brewing between the bosses, and soon the violence will spill into the streets unless someone steps up to do something about it. In the shadows, powerful forces are playing a different game, and an undercover agent named Katja in town spying for her foreign queen. A group of dissidents have been plotting against the monarch, and Katja must infiltrate their ranks and disrupt their bloodthirsty plans before they can come to fruition.
Like I said, compared to the first book, Bloodmage takes the story in a very different direction, and with the exception of a few returning faces from Battlemage who play very minor roles in this one, this sequel also stars a whole new cast of characters. If you’re wondering if this makes it possible to read Bloodmage on its own as a standalone, the answer is yes. In fact, this is the second epic fantasy sequel I’ve read this year that follows this trend and I am hoping it will continue; this makes the books so much more accessible and removes the barrier for new readers who might want to jump right in, if the description of Bloodmage piques your interest.
In essence, this book reads and feels much like a murder mystery, so that the tone and style is pretty far removed from Battlemage. The scope of the story is not as vast and there are far less sweeping battles. Instead, almost all of the clashes in this book are carried out on a more local scale—and they’re more personal. Depending on the type of story you were expecting, this can either be a positive or negative thing. I feel we get to know the characters on a deeper level in this book, but we do lose the some of the “epicness” of the setting and conflicts that I love so much in Battlemage. Since it takes time for a mystery to unravel and other conspiracies to play out, the pacing of Bloodmage also feels more gradual and controlled, so that if you liked the powerful momentum of Battlemage you might find the sequel slower and more subdued in comparison.
Personally, I might have preferred the energy of the first book more because I can’t help but be drawn to fast-paced action. On the other hand, I also love a good mystery on occasion, so Bloodmage also appealed to me in this sense. Ultimately, which book works better for you will come down to a matter of taste, but I must also add that this is worth reading if you enjoyed the first book, since here you will get to experience the fallout from its ending. Characters in Bloodmage still speak of the final showdown between Balfruss and the warlock in hushed whispers of awe, transforming the events of the first book into something like legend. And even though the returning characters from Battlemage appear or are mentioned only briefly, it was still interesting to catch up with some of them and see what they’re up to now, especially Talandra and Vargus.
I’m also happy with my experience with the audiobook. I’ve heard good things about narrator Matt Addis from his performance for the audio edition of Battlemage, and he has taken up the role again for the sequel. He does a great job with his tones and inflections, helping distinguish different speakers which is very helpful in a story with a relatively big cast.
Now I’m extremely curious to see what the final installment of the trilogy will bring. Will book three, Chaosmage, be another standalone-type story? Will it tie everything together, drawing from both Battlemage and Bloodmage? What tone will it take and what kind of surprises will it have in store? I’m definitely looking forward to finding out.
Story: | Performance: | Overall: