Review: The Thorn of Dentonhill by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Also by this author: A Murder of Mages
Published by Penguin on February 3, 2015
Veranix Calbert leads a double life. By day, he’s a struggling magic student at the University of Maradaine. At night, he spoils the drug trade of Willem Fenmere, crime boss of Dentonhill and murderer of Veranix’s father. He’s determined to shut Fenmere down. With that goal in mind, Veranix disrupts the delivery of two magical artifacts meant for Fenmere's clients, the mages of the Blue Hand Circle. Using these power-filled objects in his fight, he quickly becomes a real thorn in Fenmere's side. So much so that soon not only Fenmere, but powerful mages, assassins, and street gangs all want a piece of “The Thorn.” And with professors and prefects on the verge of discovering his secrets, Veranix’s double life might just fall apart. Unless, of course, Fenmere puts an end to it first.
In general, when I read a book for review, I prefer to only think about my reaction. But every once in a while when I read a book, I can’t help but see points I think other reviewers will make. Points that I personally don’t feel are important to my experience of the book. Usually I ignore them, but occasionally I address them in my review not because I think they are faults, but because I *don’t* think they are faults and want to point them out in hopes of balancing out any negativity that might be brought up else where. And maybe I’m wrong, maybe other reviewers won’t point these out (in which case, I apologize). But just in case, here it goes.
I see so many reviews slamming books for not having “something new” in them. Books like this one make me question why. I mean honestly, if there wasn’t fun in reading certain tropes or types of storylines, we wouldn’t see them so often. I think the more important thing is how it’s executed. This book may not be without its flaws, but it was a fun and exciting read. Yes, it had a magic student with somewhat mysterious and curious background, one that is on a mission of revenge, a kind vigilante in the night, breaking laws to enforce the ones that the constables are not able or willing to do themselves. So much of this sounds familiar, but so much of it is terribly exciting and fun, I just don’t care. Especially since Maresca made it feel fresh through his characters and world.
The book reminded me a bit of the show Arrow (yes, I know it’s based on comics, but having not read them, the show is my reference 🙂 ) The book’s protagonist works in secret to try and take down what is essentially the drug overlord of their city. The drug effite is a nasty thing, overuse can fry people out, leave them as shells of themselves in what is pretty much a vegetative state. Veranix is seeking vengeance for personal tragedy that has hit him and so many others as a result of this drug. Using stealth, a staff, arrows and a bit of magic, he fights and beats the odds many times in some pretty intense action scenes. Complimenting all of this, there is a street gang culture that really adds to the personality of the book.
By day, when Veranix is not traveling by roof tops, trying to make whatever small dents he can into the drug trade, he attends the University of Maradaine where he studies magic. He is evidently quite a talented mage in the making, but is not real keen on the theory behind it. As for the magic system, mages must draw energy from numina, some sort of magical force or material that flows around us. Other than having to draw numina to fuel their spells/magic, I’m not sure I saw much structure to what could or could not be done. I’m sure there’s some deus-a-machine here, but once again, I don’t really care. There were eventually costs to the magic, there were limits and I could understand when he might be able to do more or less magic. Sounds good enough to me!
As for other characters, there is one female character, and I did find her quite interesting. I am hoping future books will feature her a bit more than this one, not because I felt she needed to be in this one more, but because I am quite curious about her. I also found some of the attitudes towards her quite annoying, but there are plenty of annoying people out there with obnoxious attitudes, so I’m not stating that as a fault of the book, just that the book doesn’t shy away from portraying characters as sexist/racist pigs.
My main point is, books like this are just fun to read. Finally, while not giving anything away, I will mention that I really enjoyed how this book ended. It had a clear ending, but what I really liked about the ending was how it set up relationships and possibilities for the next book (which I definitely plan on reading).