Why You Should Go Read Mageworlds Right Now

Beka, aka Tarnekep Portree, wants you to read these books. Now.

Last night, after a marathon reading session, I finally finished By Honor Betray’d, aka the final novel in the Mageworlds trilogy. When I finished the last page, I broke into a grin. A few moments later, when I was able to form a coherent sentence, I thought, “Wow. This is what it feels like to be completely satisfied by the end of a series. I’d almost forgotten what that was like.” My second thought was “everyone needs to go read these books right now.”

If you’ve listened to the podcast, you’ve heard me discuss this series before, but here’s the genesis of my obsession. Several months ago, Dunc from Club Jade mentioned her theory that one of her favorite space opera series started out as Star Wars fanfic. I, being the curious one, asked her the name of the series. She very enthusiastically replied “Mageworlds”, provided a helpful link, and ordered me to go read them now. I bought the first novel, The Price of the Stars (Which is still listed as $2.99 for ebook! Go buy it before it changes!), but didn’t finish it for several weeks as I got caught up reading other novels that I’d received from the library.

To be honest, at first it was difficult for me to get into the story. There wasn’t much exposition for the universe, and I felt like I’d been thrown into the middle of a fandom that I should already know but didn’t. About halfway though, however, everything changed as characters and plotlines came together, and I got hooked. Hooked, I tell you. Since then, I haven’t been able to put down the novels and have been encouraging everyone I know to read them.

So why should you read them? Like I said, they are some of the most satisfying novels I’ve ever read. They are epic, but not dark and depressing. I’ll be honest here: I’m probably the only person on the internet who is not excited about The Dark Knight Rises. Why? Because the Christopher Nolan Batman series is so dark and gloomy that it’s hard for me to find the movies entertaining. Are they good movies? Yes. Do they make me pump my fist and cheer like I did during The Avengers? No. This is not to say that stories can’t have dark elements and still be satisfying. That other novel I’ve encouraged everyone to read, The Season of Passage, is very dark. In spite of that, the novel is still enjoyable, because there are enough elements to lift your spirits. There are good moments to temper the bad. And that is exactly the case with Mageworlds, and I guarantee that by the end of the first trilogy, you will be completely satisfied and have very few unanswered questions. (About the trilogy itself, that is. I still want to read Beka’s parents’ story.)

It’s space opera, so the story is sprawling and epic by default. The novels take place in a fictional galaxy that is divided into the Republic and the Mageworlds. Those of you who read the Star Wars Expanded Universe will find familiar technology: datapads, hyperspace, comlinks, etc. The galaxy has its own “Force” called the currents of power, and the Adepts and Mages both use the power differently. The descriptions of both Owen Rosselin-Metadi and Llannat Hyfid using this power were utterly fascinating, and reminded me of why I loved Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor. These are the kinds of things I want from my Force powers, not just bland video game descriptions.

I won’t spoil the plot except to explain how it all starts out, because you really don’t want to be spoiled for this series. In the first novel, free-spacer Beka Rosselin-Metadi is enlisted by her father, General Jos Metadi, to find out who ordered the assassination of her mother, the Domina Perada Rosselin. (The Domina is the hereditary ruler of the lost planet of Entibor.) Beka, having lived on her own since the age of seventeen, completely uninterested in one day inheriting her mother’s title, becomes captain of her father’s old ship, the Warhammer, and goes out into the galaxy in search of the assassins.

In addition to the compelling story and setting, the characters are some of the best I’ve ever read. Beka Rosselin-Metadi is a complex woman who kicks ass and takes names, but isn’t afraid to show vulnerability or her affection for her partner. She’s one of those female characters that light up the page, like Mara Jade or Katniss Everdeen. At first I wasn’t sure what to think about Nyls Jessan, the Space Force medic who gets drawn into the action somewhat against his will. But as I got to know Nyls, he became one of those characters you can’t help but fall in love with. He’s charming and funny, all while threatening someone with a blaster. The other characters all have interesting backgrounds, nobody is one-dimensional (not even the smarmy Tarveet from Pleyver), and I honestly had a hard time figuring out who to root for at the end.

The Mageworlds series starts out with a trilogy–The Price of the Stars, Starpilot’s Grave, and By Honor Betray’d. There are several other books that aren’t related to the trilogy, but I’ve been informed I have to read them nonetheless. (Not like I don’t want to. I’m really interested in learning more about Jos Metadi, Perada Rosselin, and the enigmatic Professor.) These novels truly have something for everyone–drama, action, romance, and humor.

So, in conclusion, you should go read these books right now. Right now! Beka Rosselin-Metadi demands it, and you do not want to make her angry.

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16 Responses to Why You Should Go Read Mageworlds Right Now

  1. Nancy K says:

    You have me convinced. After seeing all of your tweets (and Dunc's) on this book go by I've decided I need to see what the fuss is all about. A series that ends in a happy and satisfying way? I could use me some of that! I found the first book at a local used bookstore and it's next on my pile.

    • Nanci says:

      Hooray, Nancy! I hope you like it. :) I can't wait to see your thoughts about it.

      • Nancy K says:

        I hope I do, too. The last several series I've tried (noteably Mistborn and Hunger Games) have started great and then ended on a disappointing note. I'm so in need of something that ends in a way that doesn't leave me depressed. And not in the "I'm not living in that world with these characters anymore!" kind of depressed.

        • Nanci says:

          Well, it's over a week since I've finished and I'm skimming through the trilogy again, so that'll tell you how much I enjoyed it. ;)

  2. Thanks for the recommendation! Something else on the reading list, thanks Nanci....

    By the way I am finishing the last book in the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series and it is amazing! It is by Michael Scott. I highly recommend it!

  3. GHN says:

    I love those books - I have the Dead Tree versions, and would love to be able to buy the ebooks. Which evidently isn't going to happen, as they are US only.

  4. Lee says:

    The prequel The Gathering Flame has the back-story about Beka's parents, and sheds some major illumination on Tarveet. But I advise people not to read it until they've read the trilogy, because it will seriously spoil the ending of that!

    A Working of Stars and The Stars Asunder provide background information about the Mage culture and civilization. The Long Hunt is about Beka's son and his best friend, and is an excellent romp. There's supposed to be another book coming out sometime which will follow Commander Gil after the end of the trilogy, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

    • Nanci says:

      Ooh, another book, really??? Gil was one of those characters I was "meh" about at first, but grew to love. He's really kind of the outside, deadpan observer and I loved his POV sections when he was like, "oh, damn, I'm going to get sucked into this, aren't I?"

      I still haven't started reading the prequels, but once I finish the next two books on my reading list, I'll be going back to A Gathering Flame. Stuff on Tarveet, eh? I hate that slug-eater. :) As for Beka's son, please tell me he inherits Jessan's sense of humor, because that man makes me laaaugh.

      • Dunc says:

        The Gathering Flame sheds a lot of light on Erec, too... Believe it or not, it feeds pretty heavily into the The Long Hunt on several levels. Those two definitely go together.

        I'd buy that Gil book in a hot second.

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  7. Rollory says:

    Beka is not a strong female character. You can prove this to yourself as follows: for everything the "Beka" character does, imagine a young man doing it instead. Is any of it the least bit ouf of place or out of character for such a man? No. There are precisely two moments when the point might be argued; when she seduces Ebenra d'Caer and when she decides to make her Domina announcement. The first has her basically existing as a female body and batting her eyelashes, female personality or character has nothing to do with it; and the second one is the moment of vulnerability that is supposed to make an asskicker more impressive by contrast - which is a classic formula push/pull character moment with strong male action leads. (For example, Peter Jackson wrote in a scene for this for Aragorn, even though it wasn't in the books.) It's not a female moment in the least. Beyond that, Beka does a multitude of things that are very typically young male testosterone-fuelled behavior - walking out into gunfire and shooting back fearlessly, intensely competitive flying, relishing confrontation, lightning-fast murderous action - these are not the traits of a woman, but of a man. Absolutely none of it is out of place for a male hero; all of it is out of place for a woman.

    For any man reading this, ask yourself: is this a woman I would admire _as_ a woman? Or is it an androgynous something-or-other that leaves me cold, except for the badassery (which is a quintessential male warrior trait)? It's really not an accident that they have Beka dressing up as a man for most of the series.

    Beka is not a female character. Beka is an attempt to do "strong independent woman" and falls flat because the authors didn't know how to do that except to describe a male character while applying female pronouns to it.

    As for Nyls, he is not, in fact, charming. We are repeatedly TOLD that he is charming, his phrases are described as being charming, but the actual fact of them - what he actually says - is completely mundane in every single case - to be blunt, it reminds me of David Weber writing, and not in a good way. He's cardboard. He's a fop who's also a badass - how do we know he's a badass? Well, we're told he has badass hands. He never displays any depth of character or does anything actually badass; he's just "Beka's sidekick". Also "Beka's lover". It's probably not an accident that, when the authors needed a character to have sex with Androgynous Protagonist, they came up with one that was equally ill-defined in terms of visible sexual identity and behavior. They could have written the whole thing as a male homosexual relationship and the only thing needing changing would have been the pronouns for Beka.

    Llannat and Ari are much better fleshed-out characters in terms of actual character, which is a bit ironic since they are second-tier.

    As for the ending. I got to about 50 pages short and stopped. I could see how it was going to turn out. I flipped to the end, skimmed the last 10 pages or so - yup, exactly what I thought. I put the book down. I couldn't make myself actually read any more of it. "Hey, they're not such bad guys after all! It was all a misunderstanding! They just wanna be pals! It's THIS guy who's the Big Bad!" That's not an ending, that's a cop-out and a lie. Wars don't end that way, the responsibility for them doesn't evaporate that way, and given the kind of destruction that was described as being inflicted on the Republic worlds in the first war, the purported bad guy's motives and reasoning makes an awful lot of sense. Even to the point of the actual murder. He took action to stop the one thing that would make all the deaths from the first war meaningless, and having read it all (or nearly so), I can not say he was wrong. It's precisely the sort of hard choice that must be made, because the easy out that the books' ending presents is the sort that simply does not exist and historically leads to disaster every single time someone tries to pretend it does. He walked the hardest path, and did what he had to do, and when the authors try to tell me he was in the wrong, I simply don't believe them.

    I'm glad I read these. There are some interesting ideas here, and some good dramatic scenes. But I'm even more glad I got them dirt cheap from a secondhand place, because they don't deserve more than that.

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