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Aram Raythe has the power to challenge the gods. He just doesn't know it yet. Aram thinks he's nothing but a misfit from a small fishing village in a dark corner of the world. As far as Aram knows, he has nothing, with hardly a possession to his name other than a desire to make friends and be accepted by those around him, which is something he’s never known. But Aram is more Aram Raythe has the power to challenge the gods. He just doesn't know it yet. Aram thinks he's nothing but a misfit from a small fishing village in a dark corner of the world. As far as Aram knows, he has nothing, with hardly a possession to his name other than a desire to make friends and be accepted by those around him, which is something he’s never known. But Aram is more. Much, much more. Unknown to him, Aram bears within him a gift so old and rare that many people would kill him for it, and there are others who would twist him to use for their own sinister purposes. These magics are so potent that Aram earns a place at an academy for warrior mages training to earn for themselves the greatest place of honor among the armies of men: dragon riders. Aram will have to fight for respect by becoming not just a dragon rider, but a Champion, the caliber of mage that hasn’t existed in the world for hundreds of years. And the land needs a Champion. Because when a dark god out of ancient myth arises to threaten the world of magic, it is Aram the world will turn to in its hour of need.


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Aram Raythe has the power to challenge the gods. He just doesn't know it yet. Aram thinks he's nothing but a misfit from a small fishing village in a dark corner of the world. As far as Aram knows, he has nothing, with hardly a possession to his name other than a desire to make friends and be accepted by those around him, which is something he’s never known. But Aram is more Aram Raythe has the power to challenge the gods. He just doesn't know it yet. Aram thinks he's nothing but a misfit from a small fishing village in a dark corner of the world. As far as Aram knows, he has nothing, with hardly a possession to his name other than a desire to make friends and be accepted by those around him, which is something he’s never known. But Aram is more. Much, much more. Unknown to him, Aram bears within him a gift so old and rare that many people would kill him for it, and there are others who would twist him to use for their own sinister purposes. These magics are so potent that Aram earns a place at an academy for warrior mages training to earn for themselves the greatest place of honor among the armies of men: dragon riders. Aram will have to fight for respect by becoming not just a dragon rider, but a Champion, the caliber of mage that hasn’t existed in the world for hundreds of years. And the land needs a Champion. Because when a dark god out of ancient myth arises to threaten the world of magic, it is Aram the world will turn to in its hour of need.

30 review for Dragon Mage

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petrik

    I have a Booktube channel now! Subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/petrikleo ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. This was awesome. Spencer takes everything we love about classic epic fantasy and put it into Dragon Mage, transforming the novel into an incredible, epic, and satisfying fantasy book. I haven’t read anything by M.L. Spencer before Dragon Mage, but that doesn’t mean I’m not familiar with her name and her works. Spencer is most often known for her grimdark fa I have a Booktube channel now! Subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/petrikleo ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. This was awesome. Spencer takes everything we love about classic epic fantasy and put it into Dragon Mage, transforming the novel into an incredible, epic, and satisfying fantasy book. I haven’t read anything by M.L. Spencer before Dragon Mage, but that doesn’t mean I’m not familiar with her name and her works. Spencer is most often known for her grimdark fantasy series, The Rhenwars Saga and The Chaos Cycle, which I’ve heard great things about but haven’t gotten around to yet; you know how it is with my infinite TBR pile. However, after seeing that stunning cover art—illustrated by Sutthiwat Dechakamphu and designed by STK.Kreations—and hearing that Dragon Mage will be an epic fantasy standalone, I was hooked, and I knew I had to read this book. Although I haven’t read any of her grimdark fantasy yet, there’s one thing for sure here, Spencer MUST write more epic fantasy like this. Dragon Mage is almost 1000 pages long—it didn’t feel that way to me—and it is one of the finest standalone fantasy books I’ve read so far. “After you hear something so many times, it starts to define you, and it eventually becomes a prison. He had been confined by that prison all his life, and now he feared the world outside its walls.” Dragon Mage revolves around Aram Raythe, a misfit boy living in a small village who loves knots and sees everything in colors. All his life, Aram has been shunned and treated harshly because he’s “different,” and all Aram desires in his life are to make friends. However, there is so much more to Aram, so much more; he has an immense power to challenge the gods. For the rest of the premise, I suggest you check out the official blurb provided by the author. But I think you can already surmise from what I just described that Dragon Mage is a classic epic fantasy told with a modern voice. My god, it honestly feels so GOOD to be reading a superbly written coming-of-age fantasy again, and a standalone, too, at that; great standalone are relatively rare in epic fantasy. There’s just so much to love in Dragon Mage; Spencer includes many familiar tropes such as a coming-of-age story arc for Aram and Markus, a magic school, training montages, a missing father, the wise mentor with a harsh past, an impending doom, and more into this tome. Yes, this is a big book, length-wise it’s at least a duology in one, and I think it’s the right choice to make it so. One of the biggest gripes I have with an epic fantasy standalone is that I’m often left unsatisfied when I’m done with the book, and a well-written book with a large page count has the power to negate this result. And that positive result, in my opinion, has been achieved by Spencer. “He recognized that, while obsessing over things like knots and books might be a strength, it could also be another weakness. He could learn a lot by applying himself so obsessively—but he could lose a lot of friends doing that too. There was a delicate art to balance that he needed to find, and he vowed to strive for it.” I could write an essay on this review about why these tropes still worked to this day—and they do!—but when it comes down to it, it’s always the characters that won my attention. Spencer’s characterizations were magnificent; it is practically impossible for me to dislike Aram. Let me assure you first that Aram isn’t a Gary Stu despite the premise. Seriously, Aram suffers so much—both mentally and physically—throughout the novel, and I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where the main character blacked out as many times as Aram did here. His passion for knots and books was intoxicating, and he’s an incredibly relatable character that genuinely treasures friendship. Connection and friendship don’t come easy to Aram because he’s neuroatypical, and his friendship with Markus—one of the other main character—becomes one of the most precious things in the world for him. “Aram envied him, for he didn’t know how Kye could walk into a room and within minutes feel at home with the people there. It was a skill that had always eluded him, one of the great mysteries of social interaction that everyone else in the world seemed to know instinctively—everyone but him.” Markus is another character that I utterly loved reading about here, maybe even more than Aram. I mean, c’mon, Markus is practically the Samwise Gamgee of this book; we all need a friend like him in our life. The friendship between Aram and Markus was awe-inspiring to read; it is one of the most wonderful portrayals of friendship I’ve read in a fantasy novel, and it is one of the driving force of the narrative. Then there’s also Esmir and many other companions that Aram and Markus encountered that were easy to care for. Plus, Dragon Mage featured a bond with dragons that goes as deep as the bond between Caim and Angelus in the video game: Drakengard. However, if you’re not familiar with that video game, How to Train Your Dragon is another terrific example of the kind of friendship between humans and dragons you’ll read in this book. Responsibilities, friendships, and especially overcoming one’s weaknesses are massively evident themes in Dragon Mage, and I honestly believe that Spencer has executed them all marvelously. “It’s true that there are some weaknesses that are outside our control. But even with those, we can usually find ways to adapt. As for weaknesses that we can control…well, life is about conquering our weaknesses and turning them into strengths. It’s how we grow as individuals. We can’t let our weaknesses limit our potential. We want to be defined by our strengths, not our shortcomings.” This novel feels like Spencer’s love letter to classic epic fantasy, and we can see traces of its love in every part of the narrative, including the world-building. The world in Dragon Mage was torn apart long ago by an event known as the Sundering. Now there are two worlds: The World Above is the world of men, and the World Below is where most magical beings reside. However, there’s more than enough originality and charms that Spencer imbued to make Dragon Mage stands on its own feet. What Spencer did with the role of magic and how it’s used is simple and brilliant. The magic users in this book are, more often than not, super powerful, and to balance things out, there’s the role of a Shield—someone who’s completely impervious to any form of magic power—that prevents the magic users from becoming too powerfully imbalanced. There’s more to these, of course, but I’ll leave them for you to find out for yourself. Picture: Dragon Mage full spread I loved reading Spencer’s action sequences, too. Tornado of flame, lightning spear, and much more spectacular exhibition of magic conjured plus the exhilarating aerial battles while riding dragons—many dragons—were absolutely absorbing; Spencer’s prose flows well throughout the whole book, and these battles never felt boring. One last thing, there were sections in the book that revolves around blacksmithing in details, and as someone who loves watching weapon/armor creations and the blacksmithing process, I think Spencer has done her research well; I was geeking out, not gonna lie. “Every day on the way to Esmir’s, he could feel his heartbeat pick up in anticipation of what he might find within a leather binding. Books, he was finding out, could be just as much of an adventure as knots, and equally rewarding.” Dragon Mage is a compelling epic and immensely satisfying fantasy novel that will remind readers why they love classic epic fantasy in the first place. Dragon Mage was at first a one-off standalone novel, but now it has become a series. I still stand by my words that this book worked incredibly well as a standalone, though. The ending was satisfying, and there’s enough room in the story for a sequel or two should the author decides to pursue the notion. One last thing, Dragon Mage comes out on my birthday. Be a Champion; buy and read it for yourself instead. If you end up enjoying it, let me know, and I’ll consider that a birthday present for me. “Fools always talk. Wise men listen.” Official release date: 8th January 2021 You can pre-order the book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication. You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing! My Patrons: Alfred, Alya, Annabeth, Blaise, Devin, Diana, Edward, Hamad, Helen, Jimmy Nutts, Joie, Lufi, Mike, Miracle, Nicholas, Zoe.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I edited this book, so you should know that first. Dragon Mage was a delight in every possible respect. Spencer is a true master of her craft, with the skills to keep plot, character development, and world building perfectly balanced. Dragon Mage is a book where the author's passion shines through on every page. In a lot of ways, this book felt like a homage to the fantasy I fell in love with as a high schooler. The epic quest, the magic, the personal growth and development and DRAGONS are all t I edited this book, so you should know that first. Dragon Mage was a delight in every possible respect. Spencer is a true master of her craft, with the skills to keep plot, character development, and world building perfectly balanced. Dragon Mage is a book where the author's passion shines through on every page. In a lot of ways, this book felt like a homage to the fantasy I fell in love with as a high schooler. The epic quest, the magic, the personal growth and development and DRAGONS are all there. However, Spencer adds her own twist to things, which keeps the book fresh and absolutely addictive. I ultimately felt like this book was a love letter to fantasy, to all the things that made me fall in love with the genre all those years ago. Furthermore, bravo for having a neurodivergent protagonist. There aren't enough neurodivergent characters in fantasy. Aram is such a real, vivid, multifaceted character, it's impossible not to love him, and the story of his evolution through all the many trials he faces. Dragon Mage progresses at a nice clip. While the book is long, it doesn't FEEL long and it left me with a book hangover, the likes of which I have not experienced in a long time. This is, hands down, one of the best books I've read in 2020. It made me fall in love with fantasy all over again. I'll write a longer review/write up on my website closer to publication. All you need to know right now is THIS BOOK IS AMAZING and YOU REALLY NEED TO READ IT.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    I absolutely loved this book. If you want to introduce someone to fantasy, hoping they'll become a fantasy fan, then give this book to them. It's a beautiful coming of age story of undying friendship, as two boys endure unspeakable hardships, but faith in each other never falters. Aram was a character that you couldn't help but love, but with that love for him, you find yourself weeping at times for the hand he's been dealt, but luckily you can also smile occasionally too. Markus was the type of I absolutely loved this book. If you want to introduce someone to fantasy, hoping they'll become a fantasy fan, then give this book to them. It's a beautiful coming of age story of undying friendship, as two boys endure unspeakable hardships, but faith in each other never falters. Aram was a character that you couldn't help but love, but with that love for him, you find yourself weeping at times for the hand he's been dealt, but luckily you can also smile occasionally too. Markus was the type of friend we all wish we had, always supportive with an everlasting sincerity to their relationship. The dragons were another standout in this story, with compassion and a special bond to their rider that sometimes tugged at your heart. Dragon Mage was action, battles, scheming, unspeakable peril, with good always fighting evil. I found myself always turning the page, just to find out what will happen next, cause you love these characters so much. It's a great start to 2021.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Leila Kirkconnell

    Aram, a twelve-year-old boy, lives in a world of his own. Trapped by his awkwardness, Aram sees the world in color, so he spends his time tieing knots and hopes to be a sailor one day. He is bullied, taunted, and ridiculed —a victim until a bard arrives in town and chooses him and Markus, the only ally Aram ever had, to be his apprentices. Aram’s life is never the same again. When he has an accident, and his blood runs brown, the blood of someone with potential powers, and he discovers his abilit Aram, a twelve-year-old boy, lives in a world of his own. Trapped by his awkwardness, Aram sees the world in color, so he spends his time tieing knots and hopes to be a sailor one day. He is bullied, taunted, and ridiculed —a victim until a bard arrives in town and chooses him and Markus, the only ally Aram ever had, to be his apprentices. Aram’s life is never the same again. When he has an accident, and his blood runs brown, the blood of someone with potential powers, and he discovers his ability to weave the threads of the world, Aram becomes the target of the Exilari, who want nothing more than to extract his essence. Running from his fate sends him on a course of trials and tribulations, especially when he lands in Skyhome and an old warden urges their council to accept Aram as a potential Champion, who would be tasked with protecting humankind. It is there he meets his soul dragon, who together face the challenge of the evil in their world. ML Spencer’s Dragon Mage is packed with anticipation until the last page, where the author nicely wraps up the plot and brings closure. The setting is two worlds, the World Above and the World Below. The characters are relatable and draw the reader into their life. Aram, a boy on the autism spectrum, is portrayed with accuracy and compassion through his habits and actions. Markus, a faithful friend, proves his loyalty through courageous acts that cost him dearly. I look forward to reading more books from ML Spencer.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tera

    I usually don´t write reviews, but I make an exception for this awesome book. I found it through Petrik Leo who talked about it on his Youtube channel. It sounded that it might be right on my alley (plus cover art is stunning). I got hooked on the story after reading first chapter. I fell in love with two main characters and whole classic fantasy setup with unique magic system. The book is simply a real page-turner even it´s almost 1000 pages long. I would appreciate if ending was executed a lit I usually don´t write reviews, but I make an exception for this awesome book. I found it through Petrik Leo who talked about it on his Youtube channel. It sounded that it might be right on my alley (plus cover art is stunning). I got hooked on the story after reading first chapter. I fell in love with two main characters and whole classic fantasy setup with unique magic system. The book is simply a real page-turner even it´s almost 1000 pages long. I would appreciate if ending was executed a little bit better with more action but other than this I really enjoyed reading Dragon mage. I´m not familiar with M.L. Spencer, but this made me want to read her other stuff soon.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paul Lemon

    Brilliant! A breath of fresh air after reading hundreds of cookie cutter fantasy books. The book is a real page-turner. I devoured it in 4 days. I guess I will have to read her other books while I wait for part 2. If they are as good as Dragon Mage then that will not be too arduous.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cillian

    I stayed up past midnight waiting for the release! Could it be that I'm the first one to download it? (No.) I'll tell everyone I was the first one to download Dragon Mage--ARCs don't count, peeps. Nice try. I stayed up past midnight waiting for the release! Could it be that I'm the first one to download it? (No.) I'll tell everyone I was the first one to download Dragon Mage--ARCs don't count, peeps. Nice try.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bookwyrm Speaks

    Any time an author with a highly regard series branches out into a new series, its always chancy how it will be received. Is it as good as the previous series? Are the characters as engaging? Is it derivative? Dragon Mage is a book that may be the best thing this author has written to date, and that's no small thing. PLOT SUMMARY Aram Raythe has the power to challenge the gods. He just doesn't know it yet. Aram thinks he's nothing but a misfit from a small fishing village in a dark corner of the wo Any time an author with a highly regard series branches out into a new series, its always chancy how it will be received. Is it as good as the previous series? Are the characters as engaging? Is it derivative? Dragon Mage is a book that may be the best thing this author has written to date, and that's no small thing. PLOT SUMMARY Aram Raythe has the power to challenge the gods. He just doesn't know it yet. Aram thinks he's nothing but a misfit from a small fishing village in a dark corner of the world. As far as Aram knows, he has nothing, with hardly a possession to his name other than a desire to make friends and be accepted by those around him, which is something he's never known. But Aram is more. Much, much more. Unknown to him, Aram bears within him a gift so old and rare that many people would kill him for it, and there are others who would twist him to use for their own sinister purposes. These magics are so potent that Aram earns a place at an academy for warrior mages training to earn for themselves the greatest place of honor among the armies of men: dragon riders. Aram will have to fight for respect by becoming not just a dragon rider, but a Champion, the caliber of mage that hasn't existed in the world for hundreds of years. And the land needs a Champion. Because when a dark god out of ancient myth arises to threaten the world of magic, it is Aram the world will turn to in its hour of need. FURTHER THOUGHTS Dragon Mage takes a very different path than the author's previous Rhenwar series. While it has dark elements, it's not grimdark. There is actual good and evil that are pretty starkly delineated as the story unfolds, with some excellent twists and turns to reveal those elements. The world building is top notch, as I have come to expect from this author. While the idea of a kind of sundered world is nothing new, the way this one is presented is definitely a new take on the idea. The fact that the world is separated into a "world above" with vanilla non-magic humans and the last vestiges of the magical Auld race bloodlines and a "world below" which still has magic to an extent due to the fact it is infused with Essence, the source of magic, and the people are mostly of the Auld race, really differentiates the two. Creatures such as dragons and elysium, a magical horse breed, still exist in the world below as well, and partner with the Auld in peace and war time. These two worlds are split by the Void, an unseen land of undeath and monsters that separates the dimensions, that occasionally ruptures and spills Essence seeking creatures into the worlds. This is the rich tapestry this story is set in. The characters are so well written, which is not surprising with this author. The author took a chance in how she wrote Aram Raythe, who is not the average farm boy who takes the hero's journey. Rather, he is an outsider from the beginning in his village, a boy on the spectrum that just can't seem to relate to other people, and one who is bullied mercilessly. His life spirals out of control as his uniqueness is recognized for what it is, namely Auld magic, and he has to go on the run. Aram is forced into situations that will test his very sanity over the coming years, as his unique magic makes him stand out in both worlds. Journeying with him is his friend Markus, who has the opposite of magic, since he is totally impervious to it. He is forced to make almost as many critical decisions as Aram in this book, and his journey is just as difficult as Aram's in many respects. They will both be forced past the limits of human endurance if their world has any chance of survival. The secondary characters are integral to the story in a way most authors just can't manage. They are lovingly created, given their own agency and add the kind of flavor any good book needs. Definitely not the two dimensional cutouts of so many other books. Then we come to the villains. Such a diverse collection of villains, from a basic bully from Aram and Markus's training to a near deity level ancient evil Archon, and several in between. No overt mustache twirling types here, but real evil that deludes itself it has a rationale for their actions. These have to be some of the best spine chilling villains you are likely to come across in fantasy today. FINAL THOUGHTS This book could have easily veered into YA territory in the hands of a lesser author. Instead, it takes some fairly basic fantasy tropes and turns them on their head, adding darkness and uncertainty to many of the scenarios throughout. There's a ton of Dragon rider books out there, many of them derivative of Pern or Eragon. Rest assured, while you can see a little Pern influence, Dragon Mage takes its own path to a satisfying end, and will appeal to a wide range of fantasy fans.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Yaniv

    How does one even go about reviewing this outstanding book? I’ll start with TLDRing- if you love well fleshed out characters, amazing world-building and high stakes- READ THIS BOOK NOW. I gave it 5 STARS and more if it were possible. And now for a more in-depth review. Firstly, I was given this book as an arc in exchange for an honest review, and that is exactly what I am writing. In the very beginning of this swiftly read door stopper, we meet Aram, who lives in a hole- in-the wall village in th How does one even go about reviewing this outstanding book? I’ll start with TLDRing- if you love well fleshed out characters, amazing world-building and high stakes- READ THIS BOOK NOW. I gave it 5 STARS and more if it were possible. And now for a more in-depth review. Firstly, I was given this book as an arc in exchange for an honest review, and that is exactly what I am writing. In the very beginning of this swiftly read door stopper, we meet Aram, who lives in a hole- in-the wall village in the far reaches of the World above, which was split apart from the magical world bellow by an epic event called the Sundering. Right from the start, we are told Aram is on the autistic spectrum, better phrased as neuro atypical. The embodiment of this central trait in Aram character manifests with his isolation from the rest of the village kids, his peculiarities, and his absolute passion and elite craft abilities with string, cords, and anything between. I want to point out that over the last 2-3 years I have been trying to diversify my reading both in terms of authors and in terms of characters. The fact the author too is on the spectrum and did a STUNING job of representing Aram’s objective difficulties with his core of basement low self-esteem and confidence through her own experiences, is a testament to just how amazing she is, both as a person and as an author. One day a bard comes to the village and picks Aram and Markus, who saved the youngster from a beating, as his apprentices. Things pick up quickly from here. Aram attempts to penetrate the void between the worlds in his search for his disappeared father, and thus attracts the attention of the Exilari- the imperial order who controls by will or force of needed any magic abilities in the world above which is drained from most of it by the Sundering. This book is action packed, but is also rich with colorful worlds, Dragons, and AMAZING character developments in Aram and Markus, as they meet countless hardships and overcome them individually and collectively. Honestly, I have never been a fan of romance or coming of age tropes. However, these were just part of a story, turned upside down and done with so much skill of craft, that it absolutely blew me away. It can be read as a stand alone by itself, though the author is expected to continue it in the future. “Think about all that the wind does, where it goes, where it comes from. The wind knows everything, for it travels everywhere and it is with us always. It endures, it feels…More than anything else in this world, the wind is truly free”. That is what this book is about, people enduring, making mistakes, and rectifying them, overcoming horrendous hardships, and trying to stay together and help the weak and the less advantage. Not everything is pretty or perfect, but this book did one hell of a job touching my soul and facing the wind head on.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bender

    Overall: +7 One of the best books I've read. From the get go, it just grasps you firmly and doesn't let go till the end. If you read the blurb you want to think of Paolini's Eragon (and there are lots of parallels to both series) but it couldn't be farther from reality. Writing/Plot/Pace: +7 ML Spencer has a way with words, the prose is delicately balanced between actions and worldbuilding. The pace rarely dips and book flows seamlessly across chapters having plenty of surprises along the way. Cou Overall: +7 One of the best books I've read. From the get go, it just grasps you firmly and doesn't let go till the end. If you read the blurb you want to think of Paolini's Eragon (and there are lots of parallels to both series) but it couldn't be farther from reality. Writing/Plot/Pace: +7 ML Spencer has a way with words, the prose is delicately balanced between actions and worldbuilding. The pace rarely dips and book flows seamlessly across chapters having plenty of surprises along the way. Couple of times initially I expected a coming of age story that we've seen plenty in this genre, but everytime, I got my legs pulled out under me as plot just smashes my expectations. The macro plot and background is woven brilliantly within the current action and we get to unravel both without a explicit flashback. I have dropped a point of this simply because in two instances, the plot mechanic didn't make logical sense to me. (view spoiler)[Esp on why Markus is spared despite his treachery or why Serban despite knowing Markus hates him but still takes him esp to face Aram! (hide spoiler)] Not sure why, but the feel of the book reminds me of Gwynne's Faithful and Fallen series. Characters: +6 The book is mostly told from Aram's pov which alternates with Serban and Markus plus couple of other characters to take the story forward. The characters are a bit straight forward and lack complexity fitting neatly into traditional good vs evil camps The author has taken a brutal (often literally) path and hasn't shied away from killing of characters, but the violence is part of plot and not just to grab attention through gore.

  11. 5 out of 5

    The Scribblings

    When the bard arrives in his village, Aramon Raythe has little on his mind other than making a present for one of the few people who treat him kindly. But soon the bard’s presence awakens Aram’s curiosity which draws attention far more dangerous than he could ever have expected. Disclaimer: This review is based on an ARC copy provided by the author. Aramon, or Aram as he is more usually called, is not a typical fantasy hero. He is withdrawn, often misunderstood or belittled by the people of his h When the bard arrives in his village, Aramon Raythe has little on his mind other than making a present for one of the few people who treat him kindly. But soon the bard’s presence awakens Aram’s curiosity which draws attention far more dangerous than he could ever have expected. Disclaimer: This review is based on an ARC copy provided by the author. Aramon, or Aram as he is more usually called, is not a typical fantasy hero. He is withdrawn, often misunderstood or belittled by the people of his home village. He is neither particularly strong, quick, or forthright. What he does have is an instinctive ability and fascination with knots, something that becomes key to his future. I particularly liked the way the use of knots is laid in from the very first chapter and is gradually built upon, being integral to not only the way magic can be used but also the way Aram perceives the world around him. Although he is not the only POV character, we spend the most time with Aram and come to know him the best. It would be fair to say that he exhibits many behaviors commonly associated with being on the autistic spectrum. This is handled with great sensitivity and we empathize with him a lot, whether it be his frequent difficulty with interpreting other characters’ words & actions or the constant self-doubt which has been re-enforced by his treatment at the hands of many of those other characters. His evident joy when he makes friends with Markus and begins to feel he can share some of the parts of himself he has kept hidden is a highlight of the opening few chapters. Markus is the next most frequently used point of view, and he fits the more traditional archetype. He has his own mistreatments to move beyond which I think feeds into his strong need to defend others. When everything else is taken from him, his focus on protecting Aram leads to several life-changing decisions. Perhaps the best line between the two of them comes towards the end when Markus reveals how much he values his relationship with Aram. Speaking of relationships, one thing I liked best was the depiction of the bonds that develop between various characters and their dragons. The way they almost intermingle, until they can sense each other's moods and intentions, is very well portrayed. In terms of content, Dragon Mage straddles a fine line. It isn’t afraid to show the horrors of battle or the tortures inflicted by the antagonistic forces, but it never goes into full grim-dark territory and always retains a strong sense of hope. For such a long book, close to 1000 pages, the novel rarely feels that length. It moves at a good pace, and even with its size, there is still a feeling that there is a lot more to discover about this universe. Although it is currently being marketed as a stand-alone story, I would not be surprised if the author returns to this world at some stage. I think that is possibly the highest compliment I can give this book, that readers will want to remain in this world, long after the novel is done. 5 out of 5 knotted strands.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ashlynn

    I can’t put this book down! M.L. has a way of creating engaging and detailed worlds that completely draw me in. This is a must-read if you are interested in Fantasy. This book has a refreshing feel of classic Fantasy with many new and exciting twists. This book has so many interesting details, like the author’s significant knowledge of knots, which are incorporated interestingly into the magic system that M.L. builds.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chip

    An epic, thoroughly entertaining book. Can't wait for the next... An epic, thoroughly entertaining book. Can't wait for the next...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Story of suffering and greed of the power hungry mages who bleed dry the essence of those born with true magic to feed their own needs. An unassuming hero arises to take them on and defeat them.. for now anyway! Ml Spencer holds your interest throughout with a gripping tale. I received an ARC of this book and offer my honest review

  15. 5 out of 5

    Greg Thomas

    So amazing, such a beautifully written story. You can always tell a wonderful story when you feel so many emotions in one book. Thank you.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gali

    Disclaimer: An ARC was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. I love, love, love this book! I love dragons and quests and couldn't resist the book after reading the blurb. Let me tell you out front, this is one of the best fantasy books I have read lately, and I do read a lot. Within pages, I was glued to the story and couldn't wait to get back to it in every free moment. "Dragon Mage" by M.L. Spencer is a refreshing epic fantasy tale revolving around a protagonist on the autism Disclaimer: An ARC was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. I love, love, love this book! I love dragons and quests and couldn't resist the book after reading the blurb. Let me tell you out front, this is one of the best fantasy books I have read lately, and I do read a lot. Within pages, I was glued to the story and couldn't wait to get back to it in every free moment. "Dragon Mage" by M.L. Spencer is a refreshing epic fantasy tale revolving around a protagonist on the autism spectrum. The story alternates between three main POVs: Aram, a gifted boy, his friend Markus, and Sergan, a hungry-power mage. Our story starts with Aram Raythe, a twelve-year-old outcast boy from a seaside village who sees in colors, loves knots, and dreams of becoming a sailor. He doesn't like interacting with others, lacks confidence, doesn't understand subtle nuances, and is being abused by the village's bullies. All that changes when he befriends Markus and the two become a bard's apprentices. When the Exilaris find out about Aram's gifts, they want to exploit them to enhance their magic. They go after him, and he has to run for his life. What follows is an enchanting tale of magic, dragons, quests, and adventures that hooks you from the very first line. I enjoyed the story immensely and found myself sitting on the edge of my seat while reading some scenes. Although 800 + pages, it doesn't feel like it. The story flows smoothly from start to finish, and the author does a great job describing the characteristics of autism without expressly saying it. She also does a sublime job of writing characters that you can't help but love or hate. The author weaves an epic tale that hits all of the right chords: compelling characters, an exceptional world-building, good pace, an intriguing tale, and even romance. The ending left me yearning for more. The book stands on its own, another plus, but I will be glad for more books in this world. If you are looking for a great fantasy that will have you scrambling for more, and don't mind a bit of violent action, this is the book for you!

  17. 5 out of 5

    James

    Fantastic, Edge of my Seat Reading I have waited for a year or more to find a book that kept me up at night reading. For me the character building and scene building that ML Spencer achieves within the pages of this epic deserves the Hugo, and were it possible the Oscar, Emmy, Tony, Heisman, Stanley Cup, Vince Lombardi Trophy, etc. In case you didn't get the message, I really enjoyed this saga. I don't like to give a synopsis in my reviews because I never know when to stop, so read the author's s Fantastic, Edge of my Seat Reading I have waited for a year or more to find a book that kept me up at night reading. For me the character building and scene building that ML Spencer achieves within the pages of this epic deserves the Hugo, and were it possible the Oscar, Emmy, Tony, Heisman, Stanley Cup, Vince Lombardi Trophy, etc. In case you didn't get the message, I really enjoyed this saga. I don't like to give a synopsis in my reviews because I never know when to stop, so read the author's synopsis. I recommend this book to all readers.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shree

    A fantastic start It certainly had the right elements that I love in a fantasy but I didn't love it. I think that the characters lacked depth except for the Sergan Parsigal character. My actual rating is 3.5 stars but I would like to see how the story progress (hopefully improve) and it's my first book of the year A fantastic start It certainly had the right elements that I love in a fantasy but I didn't love it. I think that the characters lacked depth except for the Sergan Parsigal character. My actual rating is 3.5 stars but I would like to see how the story progress (hopefully improve) and it's my first book of the year

  19. 4 out of 5

    SSShafiq

    Dec 2020 Friendship with dragons - hold on while I run you down on my way to the bookstore

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    A few things to note first there is no start or end date on the book for me yet because I AM GETTING THE REAL BOOK not just the book, the second is ML Spencer has taken my mind to places and made evil good and good evil. Now for Dragon Mage Another out of the ball hit out of the park. I was sucked in from the beginning and it just kept growing. I caught myself trying to turn the the last page for more. Ms Spencer has a way of bringing out true emotion and investment in the book. The characters b A few things to note first there is no start or end date on the book for me yet because I AM GETTING THE REAL BOOK not just the book, the second is ML Spencer has taken my mind to places and made evil good and good evil. Now for Dragon Mage Another out of the ball hit out of the park. I was sucked in from the beginning and it just kept growing. I caught myself trying to turn the the last page for more. Ms Spencer has a way of bringing out true emotion and investment in the book. The characters become friends and the story never runs into those dreaded lags that can happen in books. This is a great start if you have never read Ms Spencer’s books. I really want her to finish her last series and turn this into a series somehow. Books like this remind me that there are different stories out there besides the same story with slight variations.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Terry Morris

    Loved this book, showed coming of age of two boys and their friendship that stands through time. So happy Mel is writing a continuation of M & A in book l love how her writing about a storyline makes it so hard to put down, till a ending happens. I get very emotional with all her books and come to love or hate certain characters.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lana

    ML Spencer is for me the queen of dark fantasy and with this book she continues to confirm this. This is a 1000 page tome which I just did not want to end, however because I loved the story so much I just could not put the book down so it ended before I knew it. The story is about an autistic boy who is a savant, who does not know how special he is because he has always been taunted and bullied for being different. However in a world full of sorcery once discovered he was wanted for his powerful ML Spencer is for me the queen of dark fantasy and with this book she continues to confirm this. This is a 1000 page tome which I just did not want to end, however because I loved the story so much I just could not put the book down so it ended before I knew it. The story is about an autistic boy who is a savant, who does not know how special he is because he has always been taunted and bullied for being different. However in a world full of sorcery once discovered he was wanted for his powerful essence by the sorcerers of the world above who could only wield their magic through draining the essence of the Auld, and Aram is the last of his line. Then there are others who are known as impervious to magic and these are just as sought after to be used by the same sorcerers as their shields and Markus, Aram’s only friend is a perfect impervious. Once they are discovered their lives become a living nightmare and though they try to look out for one another the powers that be make this impossible. This is a book of extreme resilience, loyalty and courage in the face of such cruelty and torture but the world above is not the only world. It is part of what had been a whole word till the sundering took place and there is now also the world below where magic was respected and where dragons still lived with their dragon riders and where nature was revered but there were those who would not leave well alone, driven by greed and the Archons they wanted to bring the world together again to the detriment of the beings in the world below. The world below is in need of a champion, but can the boy who always puts himself down, totally lacks self confidence be the champion they need? If this book does not hit the number one best seller list and stay there for months nothing will! It is riveting and such a pleasure to read, with the main characters being so charismatic and the dragons just awesome. I cannot recommend this dark fantasy epic novel strongly enough, the descriptions of the world below are as beautiful as the dark and brutal scenes are brutal!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    Couldn't get past chapter 10 I cant stand it when the main character is completely helpless. Drives me nuts. The kid has "magic" from the "old blood" and even uses it to help his shinny brand new best friend. Then when its actually needed, doesnt use it. I cant stand it when the story goes such an obvious way when common sense would tell you almost any resistance would have alteast saved some of the MC's early movements and learning. I loved ML Spencer's works I head read before, but this one i j Couldn't get past chapter 10 I cant stand it when the main character is completely helpless. Drives me nuts. The kid has "magic" from the "old blood" and even uses it to help his shinny brand new best friend. Then when its actually needed, doesnt use it. I cant stand it when the story goes such an obvious way when common sense would tell you almost any resistance would have alteast saved some of the MC's early movements and learning. I loved ML Spencer's works I head read before, but this one i just couldn't do.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sandy Fosdick

    Though I am only in chapter 39 I am loving this book. The characters are amazing and Aram is by far my favorite ❤️. Building one world is hard enough but this author built two fantastic worlds. I can't wait to see what happens. Though I am only in chapter 39 I am loving this book. The characters are amazing and Aram is by far my favorite ❤️. Building one world is hard enough but this author built two fantastic worlds. I can't wait to see what happens.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Gray

    I couldn't put this book down it was amazing from start to finish and the characters relationships and growth was brilliant it truly made me feel like I was there with them I couldn't put this book down it was amazing from start to finish and the characters relationships and growth was brilliant it truly made me feel like I was there with them

  26. 4 out of 5

    S.J. Saunders

    A fun, if meandering, read with characters that aren't just likeable, but honorable. The brotherly love between Aram and Markus truly warms my heart! A fun, if meandering, read with characters that aren't just likeable, but honorable. The brotherly love between Aram and Markus truly warms my heart!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Beba Andric

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Wow! Just Wow! One of the best books I've read in years! Totally nail biting reading, so completely captured me from the beginning, I literally couldn't put it down. A young boy, an outcast in his village is desperate to fit in and find a friend. He is belittled and bullied and treated like the village idiot, until Markus comes to his aid and an unlikely friendship develops. A mysterious Bard arrives and Aram and Markus are chosen to be his apprentices,, and they embark on a journey that puts th Wow! Just Wow! One of the best books I've read in years! Totally nail biting reading, so completely captured me from the beginning, I literally couldn't put it down. A young boy, an outcast in his village is desperate to fit in and find a friend. He is belittled and bullied and treated like the village idiot, until Markus comes to his aid and an unlikely friendship develops. A mysterious Bard arrives and Aram and Markus are chosen to be his apprentices,, and they embark on a journey that puts them all in danger. Aram ,not realising he has old blood, opens the veil between world and inadvertently allows creatures through. They are attacked and Aram captured and drained of his essence and once again, Markus comes to his aid. Close to death, Aram is saved by a void dragon and deposited in another realm, where he's taught to embrace his essence and old blood and put threw various trials. Aram discovers the truth of the betrayal during these trials. The void dragon calls to him and he brings it back from the void and so the adventure continues, to beat the Exilari, who want to control all realms. This book is such an amazing story, extremely well written and totally enthralling! A MUST read!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lee Sharp

    In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital advanced reader's copy of the book at no cost, in exchange for an honest review of the book. I liked the book enough that I ordered the hardcover on Amazon after my review. The book focuses on small fishing town boy Aramon Raythe, who struggles socially and economically after the disappearance of his father, in part due to his idiosyncracies. The author goes on to slowly reveal the origins and depths of those differences, and how much they In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital advanced reader's copy of the book at no cost, in exchange for an honest review of the book. I liked the book enough that I ordered the hardcover on Amazon after my review. The book focuses on small fishing town boy Aramon Raythe, who struggles socially and economically after the disappearance of his father, in part due to his idiosyncracies. The author goes on to slowly reveal the origins and depths of those differences, and how much they impact his life, his family, and a centuries old conflict between the gods. This is a classic "training from childhood to be the leader of Good" coming of age sagas. The protagonist is wonderfully flawed, brilliant, family and friend oriented, and humble, serving a great role model to the readers. M. L. Spencer crafted this book within a multi-tiered world, somehow dividing into at least two parts, with a third intervening plane. The author explains the world was previously split during a prior conflict between god figures, and the current conflict in which this story takes place is simply a continuation of that original conflict. M. L. Spencer introduces several characters, who are more or less developed based on their ongoing proximity to Aramon. As Aramon travels through the realms, the reader is treated to a variety of locations, which are described in some basic detail, helping provide the reader some context, presumably both for this book and for future books in the series. The descriptions left me thinking of Anne McCaffrey's weyrs. There are some intense violent scenes in the book, including kidnapping, torture, and murder. For YA readers with a trauma history, some discussion of the book may be necessary. The violence served to advance the plot and I did not perceive it as gratuitous in nature. I do not recall any scenes of sexual violence, so I do not believe this book would serve to trigger strong negative emotions for readers with that concern. I do not recall any strong language, so if there is any, it was very isolated and infrequent. Overall, I think this is a compelling YA read that adults fantasy readers can enjoy equally as well. This work is probably average for YA in terms of cautionary content, in that it has a modest amount, but an average young adult will not struggle meaningfully with the content. If you are a parent looking for an engaging read for you to share with your young adult, an adult looking for a good read to share with a young adult in your life, or if you are like me, and simply an adult that likes Sci-Fi/Fantasy, this is a good book to put on your list. I would have no problem purchasing this book and giving it to a teenage child, nephew or niece.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    Well, this was quite interesting. I have wanted to read this book for sooo long, always staring at it longingly, and finally I've done exactly that. I live in Germany so I couldn't just buy this at the local bookstore and I have no Kindle, so I couldn't read it there either. For better or for worse I had to order the paperback version and now I have a beautiful, huge book with a mesmerizing cover at home. That alone would be worth it. After salivating over this book for so long, I'm overjoyed to h Well, this was quite interesting. I have wanted to read this book for sooo long, always staring at it longingly, and finally I've done exactly that. I live in Germany so I couldn't just buy this at the local bookstore and I have no Kindle, so I couldn't read it there either. For better or for worse I had to order the paperback version and now I have a beautiful, huge book with a mesmerizing cover at home. That alone would be worth it. After salivating over this book for so long, I'm overjoyed to have finally read it. Maybe my expectations came into my way and blocked me from enjoying it as much as I might have if it weren't for my mindset. Nevertheless I really, really liked this book: the character building was awesome and the main character felt really human, a nice change from many other fantasy sagas. The premise was enticing and the word itself felt magical, even realistic (for there are even greater horrors in these worlds of greater wonder). But still, there were some things that "spoilt" it a bit for me (that's why this isn't a five star read): some things developed too quickly. While at most times the pacing was reasonable and realistic, there was one thing that just was a tad unbelievable for me and messed with my feel for this book. While it is understandable for two boys forming a strong bond hardened by cruelty and terror, in the beginning I just couldn't fathom why on earth Marcus was so committed to Aram. He had just met him and basically threw his whole life away from him. And later, even though a strong bond was understandable, to speak of each other as brother or best friend after a matter of days felt a bit wrong to me. Still, this was an amazing read, right up my alley. I love coming-of-age-books and finding-your-destiny-plots, so this was perfect for me. I'm excited for the things the author will publish in the future and for how Aram's and Marcus's story will continue.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Matt McAbee

    Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review I had never read anything by ML Spencer before getting a review copy of Dragonmage and I need to start reading her other books now, I was so blown away by her writing style. Her worldbuilding and plot movement is excellent, and her characters are exceptional. Dragonmage starts with Aram a young boy that is just different from the rest of the people in his village and he has powers that can rival the gods, but he thinks his differe Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review I had never read anything by ML Spencer before getting a review copy of Dragonmage and I need to start reading her other books now, I was so blown away by her writing style. Her worldbuilding and plot movement is excellent, and her characters are exceptional. Dragonmage starts with Aram a young boy that is just different from the rest of the people in his village and he has powers that can rival the gods, but he thinks his differences are his weakness and not a strength. His power soon gets revealed and he is taken captive by an evil Exilari sorcerer. That’s as far into the plot as I am going for more you will have to read it. I won’t sugarcoat it this one is a long read, showing at over 800 pages it takes a bit to get through, but the story moves at a pace that makes the length manageable and I actually found myself wanting more at the end. I wasn’t ready for the story to end. This book has everything I needed in its dragons, magic on an epic scale, gritty battle scenes, an evil god trying to end it all. No matter how you like your fantasy this one has something for you. I loved the pacing it wasn’t so fast that it felt rushed and wasn’t so drawn out it felt like a slog to read. The book does switch between a few POVs, I found all of them enjoyable except for the Sergan the pompous, better than you sorcerer. There have not been many characters in books that I despise, and he got on that list fast. Overall this is a wonderful start to a new series that I cant wait to read more of.

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