Ambition drives her. Danger thrills her. But magic always has a price.
Twenty years have passed since the Darkmage was destroyed and the war between mages ended. For Lira Astor, the single living heir to the Darkmage, escaping her name is impossible. People still fear what is long dead, and they see in her the rise of another dangerous mage with deadly ambition. Desperate to claw her way free of her grandfather’s shadow, to make her own name amongst the world of mages, Lira is willing to do whatever it takes. Even if that means joining the secretive rebel group looking to restore his vision.
Survival is a lesson Lira learned early and often, yet when she is abducted and held prisoner in a deadly game of cat and mouse, she finds herself facing a nemesis she may be no match for. Forced to band together with unlikely allies who challenge everything she believes about what it means to be a mage, she will have to rely on every bit of ruthlessness she possesses.
Because the war may only just be beginning…
…and Lira Astor intends to come out on top.
Ok. So to start with, I really enjoyed this book, I want that clear up front. I have loved Lisa Cassidy’s writing since I devoured her entire A Tale of Stars and Shadow series back in November of 2020, and Heir to the Darkmage delivers just as much emotional punch as that series, albeit in new and different ways.
However, while I want to rave about how much I enjoyed Heir to the Darkmage, this is a difficult book to talk about without spoilers, and I hate spoiling books in my reviews.
S0, I’m going to do my best to talk about things cryptically and focus on things that are NOT the plot. My apologies to those who like a review that summarizes the plot, but I am too spoiler averse to write one of those. So instead, you’ll get my enthusiasm about the characters and setting and you’ll have to just read the blurb and decide on your own what to do from there.
First of all, I adore Lira. She’s determined and strong, and yet broken and vulnerable in ways that all seem real, believable and relatable at every turn. She’s had a very tough life right out of the gate, and then she goes out her way to make her own life harder in a misguided attempt at stoicism that reminds me of plenty of people I know in the real world.
I love the supporting cast of Heir to the Darkmage too. There are so many rich and interesting characters here, and I find that’s one of Cassidy’s greatest strengths as a writer. No one ever feels like a throwaway. Everyone we meet on the page clearly has their own story and their own motivations. And the biggest personalities on the page were complex enough to rival Lira in holding my interest throughout the story. Especially Lira’s personal foil, who I won’t name because spoilers.
In addition to the characters, the world building is lush and intriguing and made me want to go back and read the series that spawned this one (The Mage Chronicles – the first book of which, Darkskull Hall, is now sitting on my kindle waiting for me to devour it). But even without having read the original series this one is spun from, I never felt like I was in the dark about what was happening in the present for Lira and her companions. That said, I do get the sense that I’d have a much firmer grasp of some of the history and some of the secondary characters if I’d read the original series, so I plan to squeeze it in before I move on to the next Darkmage book.
Honestly, I adored almost everything about this book. I have a single complaint, and it’s not a huge one, but I think it’s worth mentioning. The pacing of half of the middle 30% threw me a bit (we’ve got alternating timelines throughout the book, which I love, so it wasn’t the entire middle 30% just one of the two timelines in the middle 30%). I will freely admit the whole thing might be a “me problem.” I may have been having an off day and projecting my frustration at the book. But I had some trouble with a series of scenes in the middle that felt like the same scene on repeat without actually pushing the story forward. Part of that was clearly intentional, meant to frustrate the characters as well as the reader, and it clearly forms a part of the plot. However, I couldn’t help but feel that a few of those scenes could have been combined somehow to cover the same points to the same effect, but moving things along a touch faster. I don’t know if anyone else will feel the same way about that section as I did, so please don’t let that put you off the book! I trusted Cassidy’s storytelling to bring it back around to make it worth my while, and she did not disappoint!
It was well worth that small hiccough for the delight of reading the rest of Lira’s story unfolding.
I really can’t say more than that without giving things in the story away. So, I’ll just say that I can’t wait for the next book in the series, which I will pre-order the moment it’s available! Lira’s story is clearly just beginning and I can’t wait to read what happens next!
About the Reviewer
Virginia McClain is an author who masqueraded as a language teacher for a decade or so. When she’s not reading or writing she can generally be found playing outside with her four legged adventure buddy and the tiny human she helped to build from scratch. She enjoys climbing to the top of tall rocks, running through deserts, mountains, and woodlands, and carrying a foldable home on her back whenever she gets a chance. She’s also fond of word games, and writing descriptions of herself that are needlessly vague.
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About Sairō’s Claw (Gensokai Kaigai #1)
When a sea captain, a healer, and a dozen criminals are sent to abduct an innocent scribe, it should be an easy, if distasteful, job. But between Kaiyo’s burgeoning fondness for her healer, her distrust of her criminal companions, and the living legend chasing them down, nothing is easy anymore.