Mark of FIre by Richard Phillips

Book Review: Mark of Fire by Richard Phillips (Top Review on Amazon!)

Link to original posting here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R2DAJD85CY4S4C/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B06ZYW8B2D

Looking for a fantasy story with an intricate magic system, a solid plotline, and of course unique names you’ll never hear anywhere else? Then this is a good choice for you. But if you want deep characterization and powerful emotions, you likely won’t find it here. Despite that, I’d still call it a worthwhile, quick read.

For those worried about content, there is some violence of course, but it never goes into extreme detail. And I think that the only swearing used is the ones made up for the story, so not too much to worry about, unless the mere mention of something being a swear word offends you.

As for the story itself, this one took a bit to get going, and definitely improved later on. But I nearly put it down in the first few chapters. There were so many proper nouns after the prologue that I didn’t bother trying to keep them straight, and there are a lot of named characters I’m still not sure about. So if you’re wondering which ones actually matter, focus on Arn and Carol, who are the protagonists. It generally sticks with them from a 3rd person perspective, with occasional visits to Mr. Not A Good Guy and a few randoms as well. And because a lot of names appear upfront, I was surprised when one of the guys who seems like he’s kind of just a terdmonkey is really THE BIG BAD. At first I figured he was more of an advisor like Jafar from Aladdin (Which I guess if he’s THE BIG BAD he really IS like Jafar…), until it became clear that nope, this is THE GUY.

Anyway, The King Joffrey of the story decides to be a buttmunch and starts a long chain of events leading a group of people leaving the region and going… I’m still not sure what their goal was. Honestly, I was a little confused on how the main plotline got started in the first place. I felt like it was rushed through far too quickly.

And for me, that was the overall theme of this story; important events were rushed through. As this will be a trilogy, normally going quickly through some of these early events isn’t a problem as there’s a lot to cover. However, setting and description was crafted with great detail, and I would have preferred less setting and more focus on the characters and their motivation. Life-altering decisions would frequently be made in half a page or so with minimal discussion, sort of like,

“Hey, I have this idea. But it will affect the lives of thousands of people.”
“Hmm, I’m not sure about that. We should consider all our options.”
“I already did. This is the best. We should do it.”
“Well I’m convinced.”

And I’d be left scratching my head wondering how such a huge decision was made so effortlessly.

This feeling of being rushed through made it so we don’t get as much insight as I’d like into the characters. This book is strong when it comes to the storyline and action sequences, and if that’s what you like you won’t be disappointed. However, It felt like this series was originally going to be a book or two longer but was cut to fit into a trilogy. Usually, I have the opposite issue for Fantasy giving too much, like side characters that don’t really matter getting 100 pages of useless side battles. But for once, I would have liked MORE, as I was frequently surprised at how quickly battles and escapes played out, and how the characters didn’t discuss them very much.

The magic system was definitely unusual and one of the strong points, but I’m still not sure how powerful spells can actually get and the effect these ultra spells will have on the caster. There’s a lot of the usual stuff: The Avatar collection of Earth, Wind, & Fire (But strangely, no Water that I can recall…), but also some MASSIVE spells like changing the weather in September (Ha! Like the song…) and nearly insurmountable ones with an enormous area of effect I’m not sure how they can stay maintained. I’m assuming this will probably be covered in the sequel, but for now it was a little bit perplexing.

Still, I didn’t have any trouble reading to the end after I got through the first section. So if you love Fantasy and reading for action sequences, you’ll probably love this story, and while it has its flaws, I will likely see the trilogy through to its end.

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