Line is book two of the Mageborn saga. My review for book one can be found here.
Spoiler Free Summary: In The Line of Illeniel, Mordecai is coming to terns with his status as a lord. But the history of wizards in the world has more catches than he was aware. Forced by his king to take a bond that limits his ability and could get the woman he loves killed, Mort is struggling to find the truth. Is this bond the only think keeping him sane? Are the voices he hears those of a madman’s fraying mental state? Things come to a head when a neighboring kingdom invades. Their insurgency point? Mordecais’ newly retaken family land.
Character: Mort is good, and Penny really came into her own. Dorian is still my favorite character by far (and he remains so). This book really helps readers connect with these characters. They’re human, but honorable. Smart, but have weaknesses. This book, to me, does the best job of setting the tone for not just the characters, but how they grown through the rest of the saga.
Exposition: Manning balanced this well. In fact, a lot of the scenes that feel like exposition dumps become valuable later in the saga. The aforementioned info dumps are few and far between. Limiting the exposition (despite the amount necessary when writing in first person) makes this feel like a fast-paced story.
Worldbuilding: While not quite the book I was waiting for, what this book does is start connecting Mageborn with Embers of Illeniel. Manning lets the deep history of his saga trickling into the story gently rather than beating the reader to death with a history lesson. He also lets the world take shape in a lot of ways. What impresses me most about this story is how gently interwoven the magic system and scope of the world are not the plot and dialogue of the story.
Dialogue: I’m comfortable saying this is Manning’s best, most natural dialogue in the series. It’s witty, without being forced, and engaging, without being overly dramatic. In fact, one of the more dramatic scenes is undercut Ala Joss Whedon by an endearingly funny moment. Manning’s dialogue isn’t bad, but I think this story is Manning near his best. (Embers is his best work by far in my opinion.)
Description: This, and his work with character, is Manning’s strength. It takes skill to weave visceral imagery into a plot. Most writers are blocky with their description, making the act of reading a scene feel like a workout before the reward of a plot. Manning doesn’t do that. He gives the details of the story when they’re relevant, and the information is most appropriate.
Overall: I think this is arguably my favorite book in the Mageborn series. The last book in the series has an argument, but this was the book that made me fall in love with these characters. While The Blacksmith’s Son wasn’t bad, I think this is the book that truly starts the series. The conflict and plots in this story are truly compelling. It kept me reading when I should have been working or sleeping, which is a great compliment for any book.
Thanks for reading