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PB, 362 pages, Createspace

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Red Mage CoverEvie Moon is a whore and a prison washerwoman, and her prospects in the strictly segregated city of Verenth look bleak, until a chance encounter with a Leaf, a mysterious non-human from out-of-town, awakens her blossoming magic and sets her on an entirely new path. She vows to help her downtrodden fellow citizens, but the mages of Verenth take a dim view of commoners using magic, and soon they’re coming for Evie’s blood.

Evie grows into a warmer character , shedding her hard shell as the book goes on, and it’s refreshing to see a female character lifting herself out of a desperate situation by dint of her own hard work and courage, and taking her friends with her. More interesting are the genderless Leaves, who are more akin to plants than people, and it’s their presence and culture that lift The Red Mage out of the generic fantasy ghetto – it would be nice to see more of them in future books.

The plot is nothing original, bar the Leaves, and it’s a tad over-written and slow to start, but as Evie learns more magic the story picks up pace and becomes more engaging, especially with the revelation of more mages among the poor of Verenth. If you’re looking for a light, untaxing fantasy read with plenty of humour and a strong heroine to root for, The Red Mage is worth checking out.