My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Review: Cloak of Magic

Cloak of Magic Cloak of Magic by S.A. Rule
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Cloak of Magic is an entertaining story set in a world of where ‘paradise’ is swept up into the power struggles of a decadent empire against a surprisingly intractable rebellion. Not a bad setting as far as such goes; however, the author’s attempt to paint this primitive agrarian society into the epitome of spirituality quickly begins to grate under the repetition. To be fair, I generally don’t find utopias all that interesting, so the perpetual reminders of how perfect this society was simply made it more difficult for me to identify with the people in the story … they just weren’t ‘real.’ Kierce was the only character I felt had much depth at all. It was through him that the author presents the best part of the story. The most intriguing concept was that of the Lord High Magician, who appears to be the focal point of the sustaining spirit of this otherwise ‘godless’ land. Unfortunately his uniqueness is overshadowed by the author’s attempt to portray the religious fanaticism driving the imperial forces (and with whom they find themselves allied with) as diametrically evil against purity of the ‘Holy Land.’ Here is where the story began to break down for me; I continually had the feeling that I was being preached at while the author tried to emphasize the moral superiority of the one society over the other. It seemed to me that the religion of the empire was a proxy for religion (external to the story) in general and that author was engaging in a little minor axe grinding.

Lest I give the wrong impression completely, I want to restate my opinion that this was a good story. The interplay between the main characters was well done and frequently humorous; in fact, I would have liked more of it (the story pacing was a tad quick). I was especially interested in the imperial commander … who seems posed to make an even greater contribution to the storyline in the future. Even the political intrigue was complex enough to be fairly enjoyable, as well as reasonably plausible. Of course, what sets this story apart from most is the magic; while not well explained, magic appears to be mostly illusion and slight of hand, with the possible exception of the Lord High Magician’s sympathetic connection to spirit of life within his realm. Perhaps this will change as Kierce grows into his power … but I hope not.

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.