When I first read the description of "The Galactic Mage," I was intrigued by the way it promised to combine science fiction with fantasy. It was $2.99 and got good reviews, so why not?
off as two stories told side by side. On the fantasy side, Altin Meade
is a sorcerer training with the preeminent sorcerer of his
land. In the way his people measure magic, he's a Six, which means that
he can work six of the eight kinds of magic. His strength is teleportation, which he's using to explore space. Through trial and error, he visits his planet's moon,
then the planets in his solar system, and then he ventures farther
afield. He's searching for signs of life, which he finds when he's
attacked by what he terms "coconut monsters." Luckily, he's got magical
On the science fiction side, ensign Orli Pewter is aboard
a fleet of Earth ships heading to investigate a distress signal from
another planet of humans. They arrive, only to
discover it's devoid of human life. No bodies, no ruined cities, no sign
of civilization at all. The crew — which has been traveling for 10 years — is torn over whether they should search for the Hostiles who
destroyed the Andalian civilization or return to Earth. Orli only wants to get off the ship
before her life is over.
The stories unite as the characters face the same opponent; what
Altin calls "coconut monsters," the fleet calls the Hostiles. They're a
neat concept: a large ball of rock that
floats in space and attacks by shooting lance-like portions of itself at
its enemies. As they're able to avoid
counterattacks nearly without fail, they're as confounding to the
technologically advanced fleet as they are to medieval-age Altin.
Until I got to the end of this book, I liked it. The author managed to keep my interest as he switched
back and forth between the story lines. The fantasy was detailed in all the right ways, the cast of
characters that surrounded Altin was fun to read, and the system of
magic was suitably complex. The science fiction was compelling, and I had a lot of sympathy for Orli as an unwilling recruit who was essentially conscripted into service when her father enlisted. Imagine if you never wanted to spend 20 years of your life on a space
mission but literally had no way out.
However, this book, which started out as an improbably enjoyable
hybrid, turned into something I had
to force myself to finish. The dual storylines were what hooked my
interest, but in the end, the way they were united killed my enjoyment.
I can't say more without revealing too much of the ending. If you want
to read my specific complaint about the end, highlight the next
paragraph. If not, know that I would give this book three stars because I
think the first three-quarters is well-done, but I'm leery of buying another John Daulton book.
Spoilers follow: As soon as Orli and Altin lay eyes on each other, this morphs into a romance
novel. Orli is smitten merely by the sight
of Altin, and the feeling is mutual. They quickly fall so deeply in
love that Orli becomes all but catatonic when she loses Altin. When they're reunited by proxy and her people are invited to his
planet, she is granted status as the most important woman in the whole
fleet, simply because she's Altin's girl. (Why that matters, considering
Altin isn't depicted as having close ties to the throne, I'm not
sure.) In its final pages, "The Galactic Mage" becomes an over-the-top
redoing of Cinderella. There's even the queen to play the role of the
fairy godmother, complete with transportation, a makeover and a ball. I'm not sure how to describe it, other than to say that the ending didn't have the same "feel" as the beginning or middle.