Originally posted at The New Podler Review of Books.
The Magus’s Tale, book two in Colin McComb’s Oathbreaker series, primarily follows young Alton, a boy plucked from certain death by Magus Underhill to become the elderly magus’s apprentice. Alton spends his childhood and adolescence excelling at powerful magic despite abusive treatment from his master.
Once Alton becomes a magus in his own right, he learns that great power comes with a price—loneliness. To earn acceptance from his nervous neighbors in the village of Lower Pippen, he uses his magic to cure their ills and protect them from the bitter weather and wild animals that assault their farms.
But what seems like a minor encounter with petty brigands blows up into an unimaginably horrible event that releases a terror upon the world that “threatens life itself.”
The Magus’s Tale is Alton’s story, but we do learn what the main characters from book one, The Knight’s Tale, have been up to. Sir Pelagir, General Glasyin, and Princess Caitrona are living a relatively quiet life in the small village of Kingsecret—an ironic place to settle, considering Caitrona’s lineage. While Pelagir is forced to use his Knight’s Elite skills to keep the authorities off their tails, ten-year-old Caitrona displays glimpses of the leadership and tenacity she’ll need when she gets older and fulfills her royal destiny.
McComb’s writing is just as gorgeous in this book as it was in The Knight’s Tale. McComb spices his prose with imagery and metaphor without drawing attention away from the story or doing so in a way that’s inappropriate for the viewpoint characters. As with book one, The Magus’s Tale is told for the most part in first-person point of view through character letters or confessions. It’s a rare structure that can be confusing at first—characters arrive that don’t seem to have anything to do with the story up till that point—but you can trust McComb. He brings these multiple threads together in an explosive finale that I certainly never saw coming.
The book ended on a downer and a cliff-hanger, but this is book two of a series, and McComb apparently does not intend for each book to be stand-alone. I do ignore my stand-alone preferences for a “cliff-hanger” series that is well done, and Oathbreaker is such a series. You fellow “stand-aloners” out there should do the same.
Both books in the Oathbreaker series have the character development of Rothfuss, the grittiness of Erikson, and the efficient prose and world-building of Cook. The Magus’s Tale has made me an official fan of Colin McComb.
Oathbreaker, Book 2: The Magus’s Tale is available on Amazon.