Note: Cross-posted from Australian Women Writers on Blogger. (This blog is still in draft mode, but will be taking over as the official AWW challenge site before the end of this year.)

Part of this year’s challenge has been to rediscover good books by Australian women which may have been overlooked. Rita Award-winning historical fiction author Isolde Martyn has chosen to review a fantasy novel from 2005: The Innocent Mage by Karen Miller, the first in the “Kingmaker, Kingbreaker” series. Martyn writes:

It is always a delight to review a book you cannot put down, especially when it is written by a local author, too.

The central character is Asher, a young Olken fisherman who journeys to the biggest city in the land and becomes first a stable hand and then aide and advisor to Prince Gar, the King’s son. Of course, this is just not accidental, for there are other deeper forces at work.

Gradually Asher changes from a rough-spoken country lad into an accomplished administrator. The reader mentally applauds as he deals skillfully both with the snobbery that surrounds him and the distrust between the Doranen, who run the country, and the Olken, the land’s original inhabitants.

Gar, the scholarly prince, faces challenges, too. He is perceived as crippled by the Doranen because he lacks the magic skills that the rest of the royal family possess and this is an affliction for him since it is the duty of the king and his heir to use their magic to protect the boundaries of the kingdom. As evil forces conspire against the royal family and the sense of disaster begins to build and build, can the friendship between Asher and the prince survive? And so much more is at stake.

The dialogue in this novel is rich with gorgeous humour and I especially loved the male banter that underscores the growth of trust between Asher and Gar. Some authors are either afraid or inept when it comes to using humour but Karen Miller manages it so skillfully. This is a book is a ‘keeper’, one that will forever stay on my bookshelf and be read again and again.


Isolde Martyn writes historical novels set in turbulent times. Her debut novel The Maiden and the Unicorn (published in Australia as The Lady and the Unicorn) won top awards in America and Australia and is shortly to be reissued as an e-book. Her latest novel, Mistress Shore, about King Edward IV’s most famous mistress, will be available in Australian bookshops in February 2013.