Reviewed by Rebecca
IDENTITIES: Lesbian, Cisgender
GENRE: Fantasy (contemporary)
This is a palatable, short novel with plenty of promise. I can certainly see why it's so popular (and looking at those amazing rankings on Amazon - popular it is!). I love the premise of the story and I suspect that, as the series goes on, the author will become increasingly confident with the world she's building and pull us into an ever-more intriguing universe full of wonder. With this first novel, though, it's not quite there yet. But geez is it close!
There are really only two characters in this book, Ania and Noah. They develop a mentor/novitiate style of relationship as Noah, who is probably about thirty years older than Ania (though magic allows her to appear younger), guides Ania through a magical journey to develop and control her newly discovered abilities as a mage. Both characters are likeable, offering an opposites-attract romantic plot, but given that we rarely see anyone else in the story, I did find myself wanting the occasional break from the two of them as their interactions became mildly repetitive.
I should point out that this is an "insta-love" book. I think the two women kiss and spoon after knowing each other for less than twelve hours. It's a legitimate trope that plenty of readers enjoy, though I personally would have liked a slightly slower development of their romantic connection. You can't possibly please everyone though and the Ania/Noah romance will certainly delight plenty of people.
I was really glad this book was fade-to-black, by the way. There are enough stories out there with explicit scenes that it was refreshing to see the fantasy elements of Wild Magic were given more attention and detail than what went on between the sheets.
You can't go wrong with a plot like the one underpinning Wild Magic. Two opposing forces that seek to control magic for their own devices, with a previously neutral woman unwillingly at the centre of their machinations? It's good stuff! The only issue is, that fundamental aspect of the plot was somewhat muted. It was there in the background, and the Inquisitio and Society are mentioned enough times that we don't forget those threats exist, but the tension attached to these groups was a little dull because, for most of the book, they're exploring Ania's magic rather than genuinely needing to run from either side of the magical divide.
I really empathise with Dawney here, because I've struggled with pacing myself -- it isn't easy to explore the relationships between characters and highlight their unique abilities and connections whilst also incorporating movement with those large forces at play. Having only published one full length novel myself, I have already learned so much, and I'm betting that if I were to read the second book in the Veil series, I'd be able to see development in the pacing and suspense. She's a good writer, but like everyone, there were some areas that were stronger than others.
Full of vivid, beautiful descriptions of magic, this is a sweet fantasy that will engage most readers. The opening chapter is particularly thrilling, especially the magnificent depiction of Ania's core ability when it is out-of-control. I like Dawney's style enough to want to stick with her and read more of what she's published, that's for sure.
Recommendation and Purchase Links
By the way, if you're a fan of the Veil Chronicles, I'd recommend Effie Calvin's new Ieflaria series, you'll love it! It's another F/F fantasy gem. The opposite is true, if you've read Ieflaria, take a look at Dawney's series, which you buy using the links below.