A Murder of Mages: A Novel of the Maradaine Constabulary is a fast-moving tale of two Constabulary Inspectors trying to figure out who is killing mages in their city. At least, one is an inspector. The other is only pretending to be: Satrine Rainey is forged documents allowing her to join the Constabulary in order to support her family; as an ex-spy she is qualified. Minox Welling is known as “Jinx” due to misfortunes that plagued his last partners. His careful and painstaking method of investigation does not appeal to the others, nor does the fact that he is an untrained mage.
Maresca has created two compelling characters in Satrine and Minox. Satrine, in particular, is a type seldom seen in fantasy novels: A woman who is already an adult, has already had a career, has children, and knows her strengths. She faces plenty of challenges trying to keep from being found out, for example, and the mystery is as challenging to her as it is to everyone else, but she’s no young girl nervously trying to find her way in the world. I want more heroines like her! Minox, while not breaking the mold so much, is still a compelling character. He, too, has the mix of experience and challenges that make for interesting reason. He may be an Inspector with some years behind him, but he has never learned about his magic–has, in fact, done his best to ignore it, which causes problems.
The secondary characters in A Murder of Mages are not as strongly drawn, but they form a good supporting cast that will likely grow as the series progresses. Both Satrine and Minox have families—Minox lives with his extended family, and Satrine has a husband and two children—and there are the other Inspectors, the captain, and several neighborhood people who add to the book.
Maresca gives enough details about the world to keep the reader oriented, but avoids infodumps. It is reasonably clear what an UnCircled mage is even at the beginning, and by the end, it is entirely clear. The city comes into focus as Satrine and Minox travel through it, and laws and regulations are apparent when needed.
The book is fast-paced and addictive, with a strong central mystery plus supporting sub-plots. Maresca lays out the process of solving the mystery well. The book’s weakness lies in the way that the mystery is ultimately solved quite abruptly. There are some clues scattered around, but Maresca is no Agatha Christie—nor, to be fair, quite trying for that level of criminal complexity.
A Murder of Mages is a book I picked up casually because I liked the name and one I put down satisfied after reading avidly. It is recommended to those who like urban fantasy, police stories, and capable characters.
A Murder of Mages: A Novel of the Maradaine Constabulary by Marshall Ryan Maresca comes out Tuesday, July 7. Find it it on Amazon