Wait, not so fast. At first, it seemed like a great idea and I committed to the review immediately. Then it occurred to me sequels often don’t live up to the original. It was possible, albeit unlikely, The Line of Illeniel might stink. In the year since reviewing The Blacksmith's Son I’ve learned a great deal about writing and critiquing. With some experience under my belt I wondered if I’d give Blacksmith the same positive rating now I as did as a newbie reviewer. I didn’t want to celebrate UBR’s one year anniversary with a negative review, but would if I had too. I dove into Illeniel hoping Manning was as good as I remembered. I am pleased not only to report Illeniel doesn't suck, but improves significantly on Blacksmith’s Son. The birthday party is back on, so pass out the cake and funny hats.
Illeniel picks up with our hero, the young wizard Mordecai (Mort) and his fiancé Penny rebuilding his castle and trying to establish a fledgling dukedom. All our favorite characters are back, from brave Dorian to elegant Lady Rose to faithful Marcus. The action begins almost immediately when the village is attacked by a relentless horde of soul-sucking monsters. The action and intrigue steadily rise as Mort must confront a less than amicable king, a super-warrior who wants to use Penny to dampen Mort’s growing magical powers, and a goddess manipulating his friend Marcus to try to control Mort. Oh yes, and an enormous army is also about to invade his lands. Mort has his hands full, not to mention he hears voices in his head, threatening to drive him insane.
Manning doesn’t miss a beat and builds on the strengths that made Blacksmith such a good book. While he introduces a few new minor characters, Manning spends most of the novel building upon the established characters, with heavy emphasis on Mort and Penny. Their stormy relationship provides a great deal of the novel’s tension and entertainment. Manning never strays very far from Mort and Penny, which effectively anchors the plot. This is important because Illeniel possesses a faster pace, more moving parts, and significantly more action than Blacksmith. A lesser writer might
have lost his way.
Illeniel is a tribute to Manning’s recently deceased father, elevating the novel to an intensely personal level. Mordecai’s relationship with his father, Royce, mirrors Manning’s own feelings for his father. Manning shows exceptional courage and grace as he shares his love and mourning with his readers. Illeniel’s closing scene is both touching and beautiful.
Many of my negative critiques in Blacksmith’s Son are resolved in Illeniel. The characters are fully fleshed, the dialogue highly polished. The sudden perspective shifts and abrupt narration-style changes of Blacksmith are gone. The editing quality is significantly improved, providing the reader an effortless and distraction-free experience.
The Line of Illeniel contains a few cases of strong language, mild sexual themes, and swords and sorcery violence. Overall, the book is suitable for teens and up.
With The Line of Illeniel Michael G. Manning proves Blacksmith’s Son was no fluke. He also demonstrates a self-published author can deliver a high quality, entertaining fantasy series that stands toe-to-toe with anything produced by traditional publishing houses. On the one-year anniversary of Underground Book Reviews Mageborn: The Line of Illeniel lines up 92 out of 99 cents and becomes our second season’s first Top Pick.
Michael G. Manning links:
Michael G. Manning on Facebook
Mageborn, The Line of Illeniel on Amazon
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