Review: Mage Slave by RK Thorne

Reviewed by Ronelle

Crown Prince Aven Lanuken has grown tired of the various potential brides paraded before him. So far, none has truly called to his heart and he begins to wonder if his desire for a woman who will be more friend than follower will ever be realized. He wants a partner he can trust with a dangerous secret that’s kept him trapped in a dark mountain fortress his entire life.

Miara has been a mage slave for most of her life and she, too, wants more… more than being helpless against the orders of her Masters, more than spending her days trapped within the confines of her prison. When she is dispatched to kidnap the prince of the neighboring realm, she obliges—though it’s not like she has a choice. The brand that holds her, and every other mage in the Masters’ clutches, drives her to go in, get the man, and bring him back. Liking him, much less falling in love, is not part of the plan. But the Balance has a way of… well… balancing things.

Whether they realize it or not, Aven and Miara are about to fulfill one another’s greatest desires.

***

I find myself with mixed feelings about Mage Slave. On the one hand, the world that Miara and Aven inhabit was unique, the politics sounded complex, the magic was a bit different, and the stakes were high. On the other… nothing seemed to have been fleshed out or explored to its full potential. Where Ms. Thorne could have taken it to 11, she stopped at 8 and for me, at least, there was never any doubt as to the outcome nor did I feel any real sense of danger/risk. Don’t get me wrong, the story was interesting enough that I’ll probably continue the series, but it just didn’t evoke a lot of strong emotion.

There was a substantial cast of characters here, but Aven and Miara were the only two with any real development and I’m going to be straight up in admitting that, other than Soren and Lua, I don’t even remember anyone else’s name. Even so, I can’t help but feel like they were a pair of Mary Sues; both were just too good, too sweet, and too… I dunno. Bland? Vanilla? They were decent characters, but there was the potential for them to be so much more. Even Miara’s guilt about what she was doing was pretty much canceled out by the fact that, because of her brand, she had no choice but to obey her orders. And Aven just went along with it, never trying to escape, cause a fuss, or anything else one would expect him to do under the circumstances. The budding romance between them was more sweet than sizzling and though I wished there’d been fewer starts and stops; they’re a cute and determined pair.

While I enjoyed the writing style for the most part, at times I felt like I was missing information—usually when dealing with the Masters and courtiers. They were presented as if they should already be familiar to the reader and I struggled to remember who was important for what reason. The off-kilter feeling was strong enough that I had to double check I was indeed listening to the first book in the series (I was). There were also times when the pacing slowed and even though things were happening, they didn’t seem to be driving the plot or really advancing anything. It was occasionally a struggle to keep my attention from wandering (which might have exacerbated the lost feeling). However, the action scenes were tense and exciting and mostly made up for the slower bits. The way magic worked in this world and the fact that it was different than the standard earth/air/fire/water/spirit-or-the-like was refreshing and well thought out. It followed its own rules and there were no jarring breaks just because the characters were in a pickle and needed their gifts to do something they previously hadn’t/couldn’t. As a longtime lover of fantasy, I’ve grown somewhat sensitive to this and I applaud Ms. Thorne for her consistency and imagination.

I think the best part about this experience was Tanya Eby’s narration. She did a great job of making it easy to distinguish characters without overdramatizing. If there were typos, she handled them flawlessly and I never noticed them. Her tone and pace were spot-on and I hope she reads the other books in this series. She breathed a life into this story that I don’t think it would have had in print.

Bottom line: If you’re in the mood for a tame, sweet, predictable fantasy romance, this might be a good pick. But if you want riveting action, a complex plot, or sultry pairings, this won’t do it for you.

Rating: B-

**This review is for the audio version, which I purchased without prompting, input, or request from the author, narrator, or publisher.**

Click to purchase: Amazon

Mage Slave
by R.K. Thorne
Narrator: Tanya Eby
Release Date: July 26, 2016
Publisher: Iron Antler Books

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