In my last post I told you about my worries in reviewing Michael Pryor’s Blaze of Glory (see “Aubrey Fitzwilliam and the reviewing dilemma”). And now here I am, throwing caution to the wind, putting pen to paper (or, more accurately, finger to keyboard) and reviewing this book. Here goes…
Blaze of Glory is the first volume of The Laws of Magic. It had me right from the opening…
“Aubrey Fitzwilliam hated being dead. It made things much harder than they needed to be.”
Aside from the opening and the exciting plot, there are three things, in my mind, that make this book exceptional.
It’s alternative history, set in an Edwardian-esque time that never was. It’s a timeline where magic has developed alongside science. In fact, magic is approached in a scientific way, with laws governing its application in the same way as other rational laws, such as the law of gravity. It is codified and experimented with, just like any other scientific discovery.
As the world teeters on the brink of war, political machinations and personal bids for power form the backdrop for this novel.
It’s an intriguing world that Pryor has created. Full of wonderful detail and originality, it is quite unlike any other setting I’ve come across in a fantasy novel. The setup of “the laws of magic” is fascinating, and its great the way they are revealed within the context of the story rather than just being stated right at the beginning.
Two: The language.
I love the language Pryor has used. It’s old-fashioned yet accessible, often slightly tongue-in-cheek, and wonderfully appropriate for the historical setting.
“The entrance to the Fitzwilliam residence was grand. A sandstone portico that would have done justice to a minor pagan god sheltered the door from the elements. The door itself was painted a glossy, dark blue. A bell pull on the wall didn’t draw attention to itself, but was there for those who were brought up well enough to know what to look for.”
Three: The characters.
Aubrey Fitzwilliam is a seventeen years old schoolboy, gifted magician and son of former Prime Minister, Sir Darius. He also happens to be sort-of (but not quite) dead. He is ably assisted by his best friend — fellow schoolboy George Doyle. Their friendship has the ring of truth about it, and often comes across as rather ‘Holmes-and-Watson’. These two are the perfect heroes — loyal, likable, but flawed. It is very easy to let them carry you away on their adventure.
There are a host of other wonderful characters, from Aubrey’s family to his rivals at school, from his father’s political allies to the royal family of Albion, from the likeable to the villainous. Caroline Hepworth is particularly interesting — a suffragette, a pilot and an expert at hand-to-hand combat, she is the girl that Aubrey has eyes for.
Catch ya later, George