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Book Review: Magnus, or Wings of Dawn

08 Jun

Genre: historical fiction; adventure; young adult fiction; fantasy; Christian fiction

Plot Summary: Young Thomas, living in medieval England, is destined to be teenaged ruler of the city of Magnus.  But he must use his clever mind and the special knowledge he has learned in secret to find a way to overcome the evil Druidic rule over the city.  Someone is trying to kill him, and ancient, close-guarded secrets abound, but who can Thomas really trust?  Who is the mysterious girl who hides behind a face covering?  And who is the beautiful mute girl?

My Review:  When I was a kid, I loved the Accidental Detective Series by Sigmund Brouwer.  I picked this up, excited to read my first novel for adults by the same author, only to find it really falls under junior fiction.  I suppose if I were a 12 year old boy, I would love this high-action adventure story much better than I did, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the read.  Something needs to be understood first—this is a thick book.  That’s because it’s really a compilation of an 8-book series called The Winds of Light, which also goes by another series title: Merlin’s Immortals.  Magnus also goes by another title: Wings of Dawn.  It’s a little confusing, but I believe this is correct.  You can view the titles to each book in the series here.

I’ve posted before about the importance of book cover art.  Depending on which version you pick up, you may not be very tempted to read it.  (Which of the above cover art is most appealing to you?)  But if you’ll read other reviews, you’ll find that others highly enjoyed the adventure, despite their first inhibitions.  I like the cover art of the first book to the Merlin’s Immortals series best, and the exciting book trailer created for it:

One of the things I’ve always appreciated about this author is that Brouwer is great at weaving mysteries throughout his stories.  Suspense abounds, and surprise twists never cease to end, right up to the last page.  There’s even a love interest for Thomas (although which girl is the answer to a long-awaited question!).  I wasn’t sure what genre to categorize this under.  It’s hard to call it historical fiction because of the “fantasy feel” of it, even though it takes place in an historical era and is set in England.  But it’s not really fantasy, as nothing magical happens in it.  We learn that Thomas has been a special student of advanced scientific knowledge rare for the time and place this book is set, which makes his methods of “power” seem magical to those around him who are less learned.  This is why I call the book a healthier alternative to Harry Potter.  In the back, historical notes are written to commentate on the time era, which were interesting, and kept the facts from interrupting the magical feel and flow of the story.

The first half of the book kept my attention well, but the second half started to lose me a bit. For one thing, the pacing and plot felt like a chess game gone an hour too long. I began to feel antsy, lacked the energy to keep up with the characters, and wished the story would just end!  That was me, however.  I do realize that most of the author’s audience is mainly boys, and Brouwer writes with the goal of keeping the attention of those who usually have a hard time sitting still to enjoy a book.  (Click on the picture for a link to hear an interview with the author!)

I would make the recommendation of reading this in the format of Brouwer’s 8 book Winds of Light Series, instead of the 550+ page tome of Magnus.  The reason for this is that in one large book, the pacing seems off and certain themes become repetitive (probably because they are acutally recaps from where the books have been joined together).

Readers may find it unbelievable that the main character is a teenager.  The author explains that teens were considered adults by the age of 12-14 in the medieval era.  I find it refreshing to have a responsible, mature 14 year old as the hero of a junior fiction book.

If you’re a young adult reader, or know a junior reader who needs “something to do” this summer, this read will keep him/her on the edge of their seat for a while!

Have you read Magnus?  Share your thoughts!…

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