The Prodigal Mage is quite unique amongst fantasy novels that I’ve read. It is very much character-driven so you should not expect a breakneck paced plot. The father / son relationship is central to the story and is explored quite well.
Rather than facing a human villain in this story, the main antagonistic force is the land itself – the weather. The land is dying, poisoned by left-over magic from a defeated dark lord. While this may sound potentially bland, I felt the sense of impending doom as much as any other book I’ve read. This is also not to say that this book doesn’t have it’s fair share of human antagonists. There is plenty of conflict here – amongst people who have strong disagreements but must ultimately live together.
This was my first Karen Miller book. While the first of a series, it also follows on from a previous series. This was not a stumbling block for me, it simply felt like I was stepping into a fully realised world with a very rich back-story. All I needed to know was explained, though the theology and religious beliefs of the world remained something of a mystery to me. This was fine though, it just made the world feel familiar yet exotic.
The world-building was nicely done. The focus was not on geography, or even culture, it was all about the people. The inhabitants of this world had their own turns of phrase, which gave them a unique voice but without feeling clunky and unnatural. In fact, the dialog was one of this book’s biggest strengths. It definitely brought the characters to life.
In the third act, the plot headed in the direction I had been hoping for. The book ended on a big cliffhanger which left me keen to get into book 2 so I can continue this adventure.