Title: The Mage on the Hill
Series: The Web of Arcana Book One
Author: Angel Martinez
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
LGBTQ+ Category: Gay
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 170 Pages
About The Book
Toby’s wild magic is killing him. The mage guilds have given up on him, and it’s only a matter of time before he dies in a spectacular, catastrophic bang. His only hope is an exiled wizard who lives in seclusion—and is rumored to have lost his mind.
The years alone on his hilltop estate have not been good for Darius Valstad. After the magical accident that disfigured him and nearly drowned Pittsburgh, he drifts through his days, a wraith trapped in memories and depression. Until a stricken young man collapses on his driveway, one who claims Darius is his last chance.
For the first time in fifteen years, Darius must make a choice—leave this wild mage to his fate or take him in and try to teach him, which may kill them both. The old Darius, brash and commanding, wouldn’t have hesitated. Darius the exile isn’t sure he can find the energy to try.
I haven’t read a good fantasy in a while, and my gay fantasy reading experience in particular is woefully inadequate, something I am working hard to rectify. “The Mage on the Hill” was a great way to re-enter that pool, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Martinez is great at figuring out magical systems and worlds, and how they would work in real life. Mage’s Earth is just like our own, Google, Oreos, iPads and all… but with elemental magic thrown into the mix. Everyone who has magic manifests it in one primary channel, with one exception–the unplaceables. These are students with a gift for magic who can’t find their primary channel, and end up becoming a danger to themselves and others as their wild magic builds up inside them.
One such student’s death sets up a lot of the story that follows, and informs Darius’s current life and character.
Martinez’s eye for characterization–even for minor characters, is impeccable–Arden’s crane-like movements and house full of knick-knacks, or Elias’s rugged self reliance, even though he has lost both his legs, both stand out (will we get the backstory of each of these guys in a future volume? Please???).
But it’s with the main characters that her skills really shine.
Toby is an effervescent, irrepressible tigger of a man–always bouncing, usually bursting with laughter and light, even in the face of possible euthanasia that threatens him if his powers can’t somehow be channeled and brought under control.
And Darius… OMG Darius. Martinez makes this one-eyed, broken man somehow beautiful, substantial and sexy. We don’t get that many “older” characters in MM romance, and although he is only forty (this reviewer just celebrated 51), he reads older because of the hardships he has lived through. With his difficulty speaking, his tough-as-bark character and scarred exterior (though he does have one really nice blue eye), he playes the old wolf to Toby’s puppy.
It’s a May-October story that shouldn’t work. And yet it does, and beautifully. Without giving away too much, let me just say that some of the later scenes between them moved me almost to tears.
The story itself rolls along at a healthy pace, never lagging. It’s structured to keep the characters on the move, and the danger to Toby is palpable at many points in the story.
There are also little gems like this one that just make you laugh and recognize the lingustic skill of the author, the mastery she has of the basic building blocks of her story:
"Houses cropped up less frequently--a lone one farther down the hill from the road, several clustered in a row along a flatter stretch as if they sought others of their kind."
I mean, how can you not just grin at something like that?
“The Mage on the Hill” picked me up and swept me along. Mark actually had to yell at me to put down my phone when we went to dinner with company the other night because I didn’t want to stop reading. And it doesn’t disappoint with its sweet and powerful ending that scratches all my romance itches.
It’s the first book a series, but I promise you will finish “The Mage on the Hill” satisfied and wanting more.
And there will be more. I just hope Martinez doesn’t take too long to deliver the next one.
Scott lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were.
He decided that if there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.
A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality.