Book Review: The Gossamer Mage by Julie E. Czerneda

Title:  The Gossamer Mage

Author: Julie E. Czerneda

Publisher: DAW

Publication Date: August 6, 2019

Genres: Epic Fantasy

Shelves:  Female-authored, Female-fronted

A little over six years ago, Julie E. Czerneda made the transition from science fiction to epic fantasy with A Turn of Light. It was a book that stood apart from the grimdark movement as something bright and vibrant. It was a happier sort of story, one with a deep mythology, an epic sort of pastoral world-building, and a traditional take on magic.

The Gossamer Mage marks an entirely new foray into realms of fantasy, and while it still has a sense of magic and wonder, Tananen is definitely more grimdark than Marrowdell. This is a story of loss, of sorrow, and of sacrifice . . . set in a world where magic demands a toll . . . with a Mage of the Deathless Goddess who seeks to break her hold and a Daughter who seeks to restore her voice.

Czerneda has crafted a fascinating world with a simple, yet intriguing mythology that blends religious and secular authority through magic. It is magic with geographic limits and gender boundaries, which is curious in and of itself, but it is the gossamer of the title that is key to the entire book.

This is a book that has the feel of something mythic or legendary. Not only is it heavier in tone than the stories of Marrowdell, but it is a heavier read as well, its language and style demanding both patience and attention from the reader. The Gossamer Mage is very much like Czerneda’s science fiction, in that it’s not a story to be breezed through or glossed over – not if you want to take anything significant away from it. Personally, I found it best digested one long chapter at a time, leaving me time to think about what happened, and to consider what it all means. It’s worth the time, especially as you start making connections between themes and ideas in the final third, but you need to be patient before that appreciation sets in.

Maleonarial (Mage) and Kaitealyon (Daughter) are the two primary characters here, with the story told largely from their points of view. I liked both immensely and thought their development from very different embodiment of the Deathless Goddess’ influence on Tananen to human beings with personalities, motivations, emotions, and needs was exceptional. What started out as a story with a cold sort of mythological feel becomes warmer and deeper as the story moves forward, and their mutual respect lays the foundations for saving the land and altering the fabric of magic.

While I didn’t enjoy this as much as I did A Turn of Light or A Play of Shadow, I do think I appreciated it more, especially in considering the final pages and what they have to say about the themes of intent and sacrifice, and how they are so suggestive of conflicts and issues we face in the real world today. The very idea of a gossamer is wonderful, and the more you understand of what they are and why, the brighter hope shines through the darkness of the book.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀

My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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