Book Review: Angel Mage by Garth Nix


am-coverMore than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.

A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.

Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.

But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.

The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else. . .


Thanks much to the publisher and Wunderkind PR for providing me with a copy for review purposes, this did not affect the content of my review in any way.


I wanted to love this book so much–Garth Nix is, after all, one of my favorite authors–but it turned out to be just ‘okay’ for me. Because I had such high expectations for this one I think it made all the things I disliked about it a bit more glaring for me, unfortunately.

I would say that I appreciated what this book was trying to do, if I had an inkling of what that actually was. The book is set from multiple POV’s and the first large POV we get is from that of a young woman who, at the very beginning of the story (so I don’t think this is a spoiler at all to mention) seems not to care that everything around her is being destroyed by her in an effort for her to achieve some ‘thing’ that we’re not really privy to until later in the story. She wants something and she’ll do anything in order to get it, even if it means killing thousands and thousands of people. What a peach!

Now, I don’t mind following characters that are terrible people and I don’t think we’re meant to empathize with Liliath at all because she’s never painted as anything other than 100% selfish, with a total lack of empathy for others. That being said, when you have characters like this there is usually something that makes them interesting, or you want to see them get their comeuppance, or you have them balanced out by other POV’s that let you have a counter perspective, etc. But so much of the beginning of this book was taken up by Liliath setting her plans into motion, and also some world building things which I personally found tedious but might interest others, that I’ll admit I was bored and also kind of wanted to chuck the book across the room in frustration. Whether good or evil, or some kind of in between, who wants to see a story where everything goes the character’s way? There’s no conflict. It’s just plans and planning and things working out for her just as she wants.

Enter our four other main characters. These are four different people throughout the city who only have one thing in common–the area they are originally from (which just so happens to be bordering the land that was destroyed in the first few pages of the book by Liliath). It’s clear that these four will feature in Liliath’s plans in some way, but the ins and outs aren’t revealed until much later. We spend a little time with each new character, Simeon, Henri, Agnez, and Dorotea, getting to know just enough about them, where they’re currently at in their lives, and what their ambitions are. This is where the book started to pick up for me as I enjoyed getting to know these characters. I wish that we had gotten to spend more time with each of them, digging even deeper, but soon after we’re introduced to them is when plot things start swinging into motion. Out of the four, the one we spend the most time with and the one I felt a good connection with, was Dorotea. She’s, out of the four, probably the most special in her own way because of her ability as an icon maker. Some of her abilities are even seen as unusual and alarming by authorities which lands her in hot water. I love how pragmatic she was about her entire situation and how she just seemed to beat to her drum. The other characters are fun too, I quite liked Agnez because she seemed like such a spitfire.

One of the things I did love about the book is when these seemingly separate story-lines are finally brought together–that felt very satisfying. All of a sudden you have a convergence and the plot lines start revealing themselves. I also loved the four of these characters together. They don’t have much in common but there is something that makes them instantly form a bond and I loved their camaraderie, even if it didn’t feel earned at least it’s explained in a way that makes sense. Also, they made for a fun team with all of their different personalities. It was like they may not have been friends if they had met under other circumstances but this thing brought them together and made them into friends and I really enjoyed that aspect of the story.

I will say that the ending of the story felt like a bit of a let down. I think it felt a bit anti-climatic for me in some ways. Yeah, there was a lot of action and who would win out in the end was a bit in doubt, but I guess I was never attached to one side or the other triumphing so it fell a bit flat for me? And for something as world shattering (literally) as Liliath, when everything was said and done, the revelations, felt so underwhelming. And like someone just brushing some dirt off their jacket and saying ‘well, that’s done now’. It was entirely too….casual feeling? At least for me, I’m sure others will feel differently.

I did enjoy the magic system in this, such as it was. And even though parts of the world building in the beginning got a bit info-dumpy for me I also still thought the world created here was an extremely intriguing one. In some ways I wish I knew even more about the magic and the Angels and how all of it works. I loved also that sexuality was just whatever and didn’t seem to be a big deal, that felt like a breath of fresh air.

Overall, I liked this one okay even if I’m still wondering what exactly the point of it is. It’s got Nix’s classic creativity, I just wish it had been executed a little differently. Of course, maybe you’ll love this one a lot more than I did, who knows? 3/5 stars.


18 thoughts on “Book Review: Angel Mage by Garth Nix

  1. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum says:

    This was my first Garth Nix book so because of that I think I liked it a bit more, since I had no expectations going in…but admittedly, it took a while for the story to get goig and for me to get into the rhythm of things. When the characters finally come together, I think that’s when the story really took off.

  2. ivysbooks says:

    Great review. I agree. The first part was borderline boring and the book didn’t pick up before the four characters got involved. There was creativity and originality but it was a slow book. At least it wasn’t horrible. The magic system is still in my head three months later so there is definitely something to it 😁 maybe the next Garth Nix book is better😊

    • waytoofantasy says:

      I guess it was interesting from an intellectual standpoint, yeah. I wish I was more into world building, I probably would have loved it more!
      I haven’t read that one, I’ll have to look into it. Thanks!

  3. @lynnsbooks says:

    This is another that I really struggled with. The start just felt a bit like wading through treacle and I couldn’t get me head into it at all. I’ve put it down and will try again in the New Year.
    Lynn 😀

  4. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Such a pity this was just okay- I love Garth Nix too. It sounds frustrating to have read so much from Liliath. It’s good that all the different main character’s stories came together in the end. And it’s good about the world building. I still want to read this, but I’ll have to temper my expectations. Great review!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      It’s possible that it may be a ‘me’ thing! I know someone else who loved it so you never know, although I admit I’m still trying to figure out exactly what the point of the story was here, like what Nix was trying to say with it, and coming up with nothing lol. I hope you have better luck with it. 🙂

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