Dragon Mage (Rivenworld 1)

Book Reviews / Monday, June 21st, 2021

By: M. L. Spencer
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publisher: Stoneguard Publications

Content Warning: Gore, Torture

Rating: 5 out of 5.

When the opportunity to read and review Dragon Mage presented itself, I jumped at the chance. I saw the book on Instagram so many times and it was definitely on my “to be read” list. After finishing this book, I can say without hesitation that is among one of the finest epic fantasies I have read. It is on par with Robin Hobb and Brandon Sanderson, so if you are a fan of their work, Dragon Mage will not disappoint.

“It was said the gods weep every time a dragon falls from the sky.
But it wasn’t true.
Maranth the Black fell on a cloudless, rainless day, the event of his death unmourned
by the divine. Only his rider remarked his fall, for he felt it like
a knife-thrust through his soul.” Prologue, M. L. Spencer, Dragon Mage

Dragon Mage is a masterfully crafted epic fantasy. M.L. Spencer has created brilliant characters, vivid world building, and one of the most unique magic systems I have encountered. We follow the arc of the main protagonist, Aramon (Aram) Raythe as he rises from a shy boy, who loves making all kinds of knots, in a small fishing village to fulfill his destiny as a dragon rider and champion mage. Aram is not alone on his journey. Markus, who is also from the village, is tied to Aram in ways that are revealed through the character arcs in the story. Because he does not know how to use his magic, Aram unwittingly rips a hole in the Veil, which holds back the creatures of the void. It is here that we meet Sergan, the antagonist of Dragon Mage, who at first seems morally ambiguous. He is definitely not good, but the reader is not sure of exactly what his intentions are toward both Aram and Markus. Aram has power he does not understand or yet knows how to wield, and Sergan wants to use this magic. Void creatures are rising, darkness is descending and only Aram can stop it.

Aram is, quite simply, a beautifully written character. The reader can’t help but love and want to protect the shy, knot building young boy from the horrors that we find Sergan has planned for him. Markus’ steadfast loyalty and friendship to Aram intertwines these characters perfectly. They complement each other in more ways than one. The world building in Dragon Mage is expertly crafted and among the best in fantasy. From the shorelines of the fishing village, to the city of Karaqor where Aram and Markus are taken by Sergan, and to Pyrial, The World Below that of humans, Ms. Spencer creates wondrous, vivid worlds for the reader. The magic system is so unique in the fantasy genre. The world is made of colorful threads, that can be weaved and wielded into fantastic shapes by powerful mages like Aram. When you put all of these elements together, Ms. Spencer has created an unforgettable epic fantasy that is sure to become a classic. If you are a fan of the fantasy genre, Dragon Mage is a must read and you should add it to your collection.

Book Summary (from Storytellers on Tour)

Aram Raythe has the power to challenge the gods. He just doesn’t know it yet.
Aram thinks he’s nothing but a misfit from a small fishing village in a dark corner of the world. As far as Aram knows, he has nothing, with hardly a possession to his name other than a desire to make friends and be accepted by those around him, which is something he’s never known.
But Aram is more. Much, much more.
Unknown to him, Aram bears within him a gift so old and rare that many people would kill him for it, and there are others who would twist him to use for their own sinister purposes. These magics are so potent that Aram earns a place at an academy for warrior mages training to earn for themselves the greatest place of honor among the armies of men: dragon riders.
Aram will have to fight for respect by becoming not just a dragon rider, but a Champion, the caliber of mage that hasn’t existed in the world for hundreds of years. And the land needs a Champion. Because when a dark god out of ancient myth arises to threaten the world of magic, it is Aram the world will turn to in its hour of need.

The Characters
All of the elements of this story are integral to the plot. However, I wanted to delve more deeply into the characters, as they are brilliantly written.

Aram: As the main protagonist, Aram jumps off the pages of the book and works his way into your heart. He grew to be one my favorite characters in literature. Aram is shy but desperately wants to make friends. His shyness and singular focus on making knots makes him a target for bullying in his seaside town. Markus comes to his aid and from there, the beautiful friendship develops. He sometimes doesn’t understand when someone is joking, as he has always been the brunt of a joke. He lacks some basic social skills as well. Aram grows and develops over the course of the book as he learns more about himself, his family and his abilities. The more time he spends with Markus and the people in Pyrial, forging friendships, he begins to come into his own and the shell he is in opens and Aram steps out. That singular focus helps him to become the great Champion he is destined to be. What is most endearing is that underneath it all, one can still see the shy boy. All I can say is that I loved Aram.
Markus: Markus is very relatable as Aram’s best friend. What makes him such a great character is that he is the friend that everyone would want. A friend who stands by your side no matter what, one who is steadfast and loyal. That is what Markus and Aram are to each other. Their bond goes beyond friendship, they are like brothers. They fight beside each other, and Markus would give his life to protect Aram. And we know Aram would do the same.
Sergan: As the main antagonist, Sergan reveals his true self over the course of the book. What I found is an interesting character trait connection between Aram and Sergan. Each have singularly focused personality traits. We see that in Aram. In Sergan, he believes what he does is for the greater good of the world he lives in. The cost for that good is negligible, and he is willing to do whatever it takes. While Aram would never do anything that Sergan does, they both have a focus to latch onto that make them who they are.

World Building

Three different worlds are skillfully crafted in Dragon Mage. We first encounter Aram in his seaside village. Aram sits alone by the shore dreaming of going to sea. The small little town is brought to life by the smell of the water, the tides going in and out, and the houses where the people live. We have all probably visited a seaside town at some point, and Ms. Spencer brings those memories back to us. We can smell the air, hear the gulls and waves lapping at the beach.

The reader does not see much of the city of Karaqor. What we see is the College where the Exilari Order train mages and their shields. Marcus and Aram train together in both academics and battle. Their room is small, and the training unforgiving. Aram does not excel and it is here where Sergan’s true personality is revealed. It is also a place of torture for those who possess powerful magic. It is a place of despair and devoid of hope, and the reader feels all of it.

Pyrial is the exact opposite. It is the World Underneath the human world. It is a place of dragons, magic and people who are good and kind. When Aram is taken to Pyrial, and we see the stark contrast to the College, as a reader I felt relief and joy for Aram. Markus also comes to Pyrial a bit later. Here, Aram is surrounded by people who care for him, people who will truly train him to become a champion, and he finds love and friendship. We see the amazing dragons, where they live with their riders, the town of Hearth Home and the beaty of Pyrial and its people.

The world building was astounding.

Magic System

I will just briefly touch on the magic system so as not to give any spoilers. Suffice to say the magic system is one of the most unique I have read in fantasy. As an avid reader of fantasy, of course magic, magical creatures, spells, etc. are not real. When creating them for a reader, however, they need to make sense within the world that is created. In Dragon Mage, the world is made of colored strings of aether which can be bound together or unbound, and make up the World Above and the World Below. Some mages possess essence, which also gives them power, and the strongest possess the most essence and can manipulate the strings. I loved the interconnectedness of the colored aether strings and how they can affect the world if they are undone. There is quite a bit of magic in this book, each as wonderous as the next.

Overall Thoughts

Dragon Mage is beautiful, masterful epic fantasy. M. L. Spencer has given us a story of the reluctant hero who becomes a champion, his loyal friend, powerful magic and rich world building. All of these components come together to form to unique and powerful story. Aram Raythe is a brilliant and moving character. He draws the reader into his story and by doing so, the world of Dragon Mage opens up to us. We care about the characters and their world. We feel Aram’s joy, we feel his pain, and ultimately, we come to love him. He is character that simply comes alive and leaps off the pages. Dragon Mage is on par with the best fantasy books I have read. It has all of the elements to be a classic in the genre. I highly recommend this book to anyone, not just fans of fantasy. It is that great.

My thanks to Storytellers on Tour for providing me with an eBook in exchange for an honest review.
My thanks to M. L. Spencer for a beautiful signed copy of Dragon Mage. I am truly honored.
Find out more about M.L. Spencer at her website:  http://mlspencerfiction.com/
Purchase Dragon Mage on Amazon

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