The stand-alone fantasy novel is something of a rarity in this day and age, and Julie E. Czerneda as produced an excellent example of it. Czerneda is already an experienced hand in the fantasy genre, with 20 novels under her belt including award-winning books like A Turn of Light, but The Gossamer Mage is something truly special.
The starting premise, of a man sent down to hunt his old friend who may have become dangerous, is sympathetic while introducing the reader to the concepts of this world and some of the basics of its magical system. Men sometimes gain the ability to write magic. Doing so, however, has the unfortunate side effect of inducing premature aging. It is an interesting conflict all told, made much more so due to the fact that only men have this ability, and yet women have a very different magical talent pertaining to the same deity, the ability to hear her voice and kill with a kiss.
The protagonists for most of the volume are one of these women, who goes by Kait, and one of these men, who goes by Maleonarial. The former has been tasked to defend the goddess who provides the magic, whereas the latter has made it his personal mission to kill said goddess. Both find themselves on the way to the majors Academy while dealing with a strange buildup of events around them.
Themes of age, of valuing one’s life, and of family play obvious parts in this text, but none of them are the most important. Our two leads have seemingly completely incongruous goals, yet find themselves working together frequently and in depth. In a world with increasing partisanship, the ability to work with others whose goals seem to be completely incompatible is important. In the case of these two characters the factors influencing their actions include a combination of the very societal norms they are fighting against, understanding, and an awareness of not only a greater enemy but also a more immediate one.
This volume is a good story with an unusual combination of an interesting setting and believable character motivations that, while universal to human thought, are intimately tied to the setting. Overall, The Gossamer Mage is an excellent fantasy novel, featuring a number of interesting elements assembled to send an unexpectedly timely message.