Cover Image: Servant Mage

Servant Mage

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I actually read this twice, and each time I felt like this was a piece of a story plucked out of a larger world. While it it is a standalone, there was this strange undertone that it was part of so much more, and if Elliott ever decides to go back and expand on it, I would jump right to it.

The Magic was extremely interesting its all elemental based and very well thought out, plus easy to understand, and that to me is a plus because lately I feel like a lot of magic systems are difficult to follow. 

Its easy and a really quick read, I personally just wish it had been the start of a longer series, it just felt like there was more to be told.
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This book is fairly self-contained, and its 164 pages are exactly enough to introduce FELLIAN and her world, but the journey is too brief and the potential for further adventures clear to see. Elliott ties this story up neatly, but most definitely sets up future entries whether continuing the story of Fellian or continuing on to highlight others and tell their tales.
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I went into this novel expecting some high fantasy about dragons and stars and felt that everything was not fleshed out and under-depicted. I did not finish this read.
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Unique, intrigueing and engageing. Even though it was dazzling, the story felt too short to me. I feel like a lot more could have been brought into this one, but everything was twisted into a short novel. 
I think this book would have done good as the beginning of a enchanting series, and definately not a standalone.
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This book kept calling to me ever since Limecello assigned me this month’s TBR theme, which is “after the war.” This book is not a romance, but I think it does a wonderful job of exploring the nuances of what comes after a revolution and how it isn’t as clearcut as we might expect. It is set in a fantasy world, where there is magic, and where a revolutionary war recently took place. The main character, Fellion, has magical abilities over fire, and is working at an inn when the book begins. A major issue I had with this book is that while there are clues to Fellion’s background and motivations, we don’t fully understand them until almost the end, so that the tension between the choices she has at the end of the book hadn’t built up enough for me to be fully invested either way. I think you could say this is a coming-of-age story, though Fellion’s age was never entirely clear to me, other than young but not a child, so I hesitate to stick the book with that descriptor. Lest you be misled by the blurb, this is not going to be a rags to riches story.

Fellion’s values are consistent throughout the story, even when she learns new details about the stories that shaped her world. She values access to education, which is evident in the first chapter of the book. She sneakily teaches fellow servants how to read and write while she is supposed to be cleaning the fancy privies at the inn where she is an indentured servant. She values respect. She tries to address almost everyone by name, instead of by their position or title (unless she is being observed or is being sarcastically compliant). The stories that shaped her world have to do with how some people have magical abilities and others don’t. The two main factions have differing explanations for this occurrence, and also for why some people can do more with their magical abilities than others. However, the monarchists—the people that take Fellion hostage and at the same time free her from her servitude—didn’t make this kind of information available to everyone, just to the elite. This is partly why Fellion makes the choice she does at the end of the book.

The other reason is why I struggled with this book on my first reading and why it went back on my TBR pile. We don’t know most of Fellion’s background until the very end. She alludes to it throughout the book, but she doesn’t put the pieces together, even in her own internal musings, so unless you as the reader want to take some wild guesses in the middle of this book, you don’t fully understand what moves Fellion until the point where she explains her backstory to the monarchists, which is near the end of the book. I did not like this authorial choice. Like I said at the top of this review, the delay in revealing this information felt like it diminished the build-up of tension between the choices Fellion is faced with, and so I was less emotionally invested in these choices as a result. Of course, your mileage may vary.

I think this is a lovely book and offered some food for thought in these fraught times we live in (I would still like not to live in the middle of a dystopian novel, personally).

Grade: B+
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I appreciated the concept of a protagonist getting swept up in a counter-revolution with a wide enough perspective to realize that both sides actually suck, but I don’t think a novella gives enough space to explore the idea. Or at least not if the fantasy-adventure is going to take up as much space of the plot as this one did. Interesting but maybe not Elliott’s strongest work.
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I started Servant Mage a while ago and fell away from it - not because I wasn’t enjoying it, but it didn’t grip me and something else came along I was more invested in. I did come back to Servant Mage, because I think it’s an intriguing concept and magic system, however I felt like so much more could have been done with the story. 

Fellini is an interesting main character, and one whose attitude and steadfastness I loved. Discovering the more of the world through her eyes was enjoyable, as I like stories where we learn along with the character, and I was happy to see her discover there was more to her magic than she had previously imagined. 

The book was a good start to a story, but I don’t feel like the short length did it any favours. It felt more like the beginning of a book than a complete story, and the ending - which I think is entirely in character for Fellian - felt like a bit of a waste of such intriguing world-building and such a wonderful magic system. 

I hope that we might get more books in the world of Servant Mage in the future, because I would be delighted to read them. Unfortunately, this one fell a little flat for me, so although it was enjoyable, I can only give it 3.5 stars.
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Kate Elliott always delivers entertaining stories with relatable characters, and Servant Mage is no exception. Indentured fire-mage Fellian leads a drab life, half-starved and clinging to memories of her childhood, before the rigid, fundamentalist Liberationists came to power and enslaved anyone with magical power. The usurped Monarchists have formed an underground rebellion, and they need Fellian’s Fire magic. Of course, one among them is devastatingly handsome, thereby setting expectations of romance to come, as well as the restoration of a noble, altruistic king.. Here’s where Elliott departs from the usual and becomes deeply subversive. Fellian holds steadfastly to her own values when presented with an attractive man and the lure of a benevolent monarchy restored. Instead, she asks piercing questions and relies on her own judgment, time and time again. She is keenly aware that the other conspirators need her special talent, and she’s not about to exchange her autonomy for a new community. In short, she thinks for herself. Through her, Elliott strongly questions the romantic notion so prevalent in fantasy: the noble aristocracy, devoted to the welfare of their subjects. Fellian insists that to trust future generations of entitled rulers is folly and that exchanging one form of top-down rule for another is no guarantee against despotism. This emperor might be just and fair, but in a generation, common people like her might find themselves just as oppressed.

I love how respectful Elliott is of her readers’ intelligence. She plays fair and gives us all the information we need (such as Fellian’s passion for literacy in teaching fellow servants to read and write) without ramming conclusions down our throats. She lets the characters and unfolding events speak for themselves without telling us how to feel about them. For this, and for superb storytelling and compelling characters, I’ll grab anything she writes!
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Servant Mage by Kate Elliott is a novella set in a world where a magical monarchy has been overthrown by sort-of Cromwellian fascists who forcibly take all magical children and brainwash them into indentured servitude. It’s definitely in conversation with the style of epic fantasy in which the monarchy is always good and right. The protagonist, Fellian, is a fire mage whose mother and Older Father were executed by the government for sedition. She’s rescued from servitude by rogue monarchist mages who need her help; Fellian negotiates with them for a fair exchange, then helps them with a couple of missions. However, in the end, Fellian is still not converted to the monarchist cause, and has plans of her own. What I really would like to see is where Fellian goes from here.
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Thank you to Tordotcom and NetGalley for providing an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review!

I really enjoyed this novella! The magic system was really cool; I always like reading new takes on elemental magic. The characters were likeable and the worldbuilding was interesting. I liked that there was clearly a lot more to the world than what we saw in the course of this story. It gave the setting and worldbuilding a lot of depth so the world felt properly fleshed out even though the story was short. 

I thought the condemnation of the Monarchists as an alternative to the Liberationists that would be equally as bad for the masses could have been stronger; the way it was discussed in the text was a little too weak for the point to have been made as firmly as it should have been.

Otherwise I thought this was a really great read. The expansive worldbuilding definitely gives the author room to explore heaps of other aspects of the world, soI'd be very interested to read more stories set in this world!
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This is a good fantasy adventure, but overall that is just it - good. The story is just too massive, and overall there is so little room in one book for the author to finish it - and it overwhelms its reader in the meantime. There is a lot of info-dumping, and it honestly made my head spin.
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I feel so lame and ridiculous for DNF'ing a novella at 80%... but alas, I just can't bring myself to read any more of this story. The scope of this story is MASSIVE and there isn't nearly enough time for Elliott to execute it. Don't get me wrong... I read novellas fairly often and I understand that fleshing out every aspect of a plot or characters isn't entirely necessary. However, because of how dense this world and its mechanics are, I feel like the novella approach was the wrong way to go.

I am still very interested in checking out Elliott's other work. I loved the writing style, and if I am not mistaken, dragons are in her area of expertise. It's just a bummer that this didn't work for me.
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What a great read!  Servant Mage is a stand-alone book but I'm going to be super disappointed if it stays that way.  I also was sad when it ended - it was shorter than I wanted (a bit more than 160 pages.)

For those who care about the details (of the writing, not the plot since I don't do spoilers or waste your time re-explaining the publisher's blurb about the book,) the worldbuilding and character establishment are excellent, so much so that Servant Mage just begs to be either book (novella?) one or a prequel. The magic system is both detailed and consistent.  Fellian is not some over-privileged person, royalty, or in charge in any way at the beginning of this story.  I loved that the conflict put in her way was well written and not just some token hill to climb. You will too.

Thank you Macmillan-Tor/Forge and NetGalley for sending me this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
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I enjoy a good fantasy story but am always reluctant to start a new series, as many fantasy books tend to be long and sweeping and epic. And that's fine, don't get me wrong... but sometimes I want something that *feels* epic but can be read in one sitting. This is it! Servant Mage is a wonderful novella that is a quick read with an epic feel. The characters are vibrant, the adventure is high, the world building is detailed, and the writing is sharp. I really enjoyed this and look forward to more from Kate Elliott.
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From my Booklist review:

In this novella by fantasy veteran Elliott, mages are those with elemental spirits bound to their bodies, and the use of magic has been severely restricted after a Liberationist government overthrew the dragon monarchy. When her parents were executed for sedition, fire mage Fellian was sent into indentured servitude. She's been taught that a demon rests in her bones, and only virtuous obedience will keep her safe from its corruption. Though she resists in small ways, it isn't until she's whisked away from her post by a group of Monarchist sympathizers that she sees a real chance for escape. The rebel group needs Fellian's magic to rescue a party of people trapped in the mines, and she seizes the opportunity to bargain for passage home. As Fellian encounters wonders and terrors in the greater world, she also makes choices that will shape the rest of her life. Elliott uses a relatable main character and a complex and intriguing setting to dive into the consequences of revolution with an eye toward class and power dynamics; readers will be left wanting more.
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I love that so many fantasy novels come in series because you can really become immersed in another world. Although I think the premise of this story is pretty interesting, I didn’t get completely hooked into this story, so I’m definitely hoping that the books following this one in the series will bring more to the table.

Reading this story made it very clear that this was the first in a series. Although that’s not exactly a bad thing, it does make me wish I knew more about the main character as well as want to see how the plot progresses. Essentially I had a slight cloud of confusion while reading this story that I hope the future books will help clear up.
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There are certain authors where I will read whatever they write: no need to read the description or previews. That was the case for Servant Mage. I knew it was written by Kate Elliot, whom I love. I also knew that S.A. Chakraborty highly praised it, and really, those two facts were more than enough to sell me on reading it!

Fellian is what is known as a Lamplighter. It means she has the gift to create light magically. However, she lives in a society that turns people like her into little more than servants. Worse, if we're being brutally honest here.

Somehow, Fellian is about to get wrapped up in a political scheme, one that doesn't much care how she feels about either side of the rising war. Her skills are in need, and that means she is needed. But if she plays her cards right, she might just be free by the end of it. Assuming she doesn't end up dead.

“Honor never dies, even when traitors stab it in the back.”

In case it wasn't obvious, I went into Servant Mage with extremely high hopes. However, while I did enjoy the read, I didn't love it as much as I was hoping. Perhaps that is partially my fault, since I set such high standards for this book.

The other part of the problem is that much of Servant Mage felt rushed to me. I didn't get much of a chance to become attached to Fellian. By the time the novella ended I understood her and her motivations okay, but I would have loved a chance to get to know her (and her world) better before that point.

What I did see of the magical abilities in this novella fascinated me. I wish I could have seen more. Fellian is a lamplighter, which is actually a pretty cool name for an already cool ability. This specific gift is needed by a group of rebel Monarchists, and that was all she wrote.

On that note – I wanted to like the political side of things here. It had SO much potential. But again, much of that was grayed out where I was desperately hoping for more details. Still, it was enough for me to get a mostly solid impression of both sides. I was able to appreciate some of the ironic twists that followed too, so I really can't complain.

Long story short, Servant Mage is a fun and quick read. It didn't go as deep as I had expected or hoped, but otherwise I do appreciate what Kate Elliot did here. I'm looking forward to seeing what she writes next.
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A sweeping adventure in a novella bite-sized package with complex characters, heroisim, and lots of trope bending. A great read for fantasy lovers and readers who don't want to committ to a big series. Very well-written and enjoyable.
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Kate Elliott is one of those authors whose books I've probably looked at over a dozen times over the years but for some reason just never actually checked out. So when I received an offer to review this book I figured it was about time to finally stop being lazy and check out one of her books. Servant Mage by Kate Elliott was an enjoyable read full of action, drama, and honestly a bit too much political intrigue for my liking. It's one of those books that I really enjoyed while I read it and was unable to put it down but once I had time to thing about it I had mixed feelings. 

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was how fleshed out the world and its characters are. I loved Fellian as a protagonist and one of the things that kept me from being able to put the back down was my need to know how her story ended. Kate Elliott does a fantastic job creating a believable world and populating it with characters you love or ones that you love to hate. Unfortunately, I found the magic system in this book to be a little boring and the politics of the world seemed convoluted and confusing. 

All in all, though, I think the good aspects of this book mostly outweigh the bad and I'll definitely be checking out the next book in the series when it releases. Servant Mage also convinced me to check out the author's Crown of Stars series and I'm already on the third book and absolutely loving it. So not only do I think most people would enjoy this book, I would also highly recommend the other books she has written. 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Not gonna lie, this was an interesting take and idea. But sadly it didn't end up becoming one of my favs. Still an enjoyable read and would recomend to anyone looking for a short novel with interesting world building and magic system.
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