Book Description:

From an Aurora Award-winning author comes a new fantasy epic in which one mage must stand against a Deathless Goddess who controls all magic.

Only in Tananen do people worship a single deity: the Deathless Goddess. Only in this small, forbidden realm are there those haunted by words of no language known to woman or man. The words are Her Gift, and they summon magic.

Mage scribes learn to write Her words as intentions: spells to make beasts or plants, designed to any purpose. If an intention is flawed, what the mage creates is a gossamer: a magical creature as wild and free as it is costly for the mage.

For Her Gift comes at a steep price. Each successful intention ages a mage until they dare no more. But her magic demands to be used; the Deathless Goddess will take her fee, and mages will die.

To end this terrible toll, the greatest mage in Tananen vows to find and destroy Her. He has yet to learn She is all that protects Tananen from what waits outside. And all that keeps magic alive.

The Gossamer Mage, Julie E. Czerneda’s latest novel, is a standalone fantasy book set in a land where a Deathless Goddess has bestowed Her Gift upon a chosen few through the ages. Men called to Her service receive the ability to write their creations into existence; women called to Her service do not create magic but have mastery over Her language and enforce Her rules. But being blessed by the Deathless Goddess comes with a cost: mage scribes age each time they use magic and therefore die prematurely, and though Her daughters do not pay this specific price, one of them may suddenly be required to sacrifice her life in the name of Her justice.

This story follows multiple characters but primarily focuses on an unusually long-lived mage determined to put an end to the Deathless Goddess and the cycle of forcing those who do magic to shorten their life spans in the process. In the course of his journey to the mage academy, he encounters two others seeking answers related to recent strange occurrences at their hold: a daughter who has heard both evil within the walls and the Goddess’ pleas to defend her, and a chemist who has learned that her cousin the hold lord has been inhabited by a mysterious wicked entity.

The Gossamer Mage sounded wonderful from its description, and it does have some intriguing elements. I loved the way magic was bound to language, the fact that magic came with a price, and the idea of flawed magic resulting in the Deathless Goddess’ gossamers floating around causing harmless mischief for mages and daughters, like hiding socks on laundry day. (And there are some not-so-harmless gossamers as well!) The main characters are overall decent people who oppose diabolical forces and desire a world that’s better for everyone, and there are some lovely descriptions.

However, I had one huge problem with it: I found it boring. It took me a couple of tries to get past the first 80 pages or so, and although it did improve after that, I still struggled to finish it. It’s bogged down by exposition, internal reflection about the mysteries, and the dullness of travel, and it didn’t seem as though much actually happened even though the ending involved big changes. Despite containing a lot of explanation, the workings of this land and its holds never seemed truly clear; despite some wondrous scenes, the world never seemed fully alive to me. It changed character perspective every few pages, and although the characters were generally likable people in what seemed like they should have been interesting situations, they just were not compelling to read about. On top of that, the villainous dialogue was trite and awful (but fortunately, there was not much of that!).

The Gossamer Mage is one of those books I felt had some great concepts but was not executed particularly well (although many others have loved it so you may want to read more reviews!). I found it to be far too long with too much uninteresting narrative, and the characters were just not engaging enough to make up for those issues.

My Rating: 3/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC/finished copy from the publisher. (I mostly read the finished copy since one showed up before I got very far into the ARC.)

Read an Excerpt from The Gossamer Mage