This is fantasy, with the usual components of magic, dragons, swords and sorcery, but made special by the use of a female lead protagonist and good writing.
The Mark of the Mage tells the story of Stone, illegitimate daughter of a high ranking noble who has lost favour with the evil king. She’s a scribe in a time when knowledge is made suspect. There are echoes here of the terror of reigns like that of the Khmer Rouge but the reader isn’t lost without familiarity with such parallels. I don’t want to give too much away, but I think I can reveal that there’s a burgeoning love interest, which gives the story a more rounded feel than I’ve come across in some fantasy novels. This is the first in a series and I look forward to the follow-ons.
The characters are well drawn and have their faults, making them believable people. The writing is sharp and sympathetic enough to engender empathy. Descriptions are built into the action, so that settings are truly part of the story rather than the add-ons that interrupt less well-told tales. And the lesser characters are presented with as much care as the main players, so that they also become people to care about.
I enjoyed this book and recommend it to all those who like a little more than the usual elements in their fantasy fiction. A good read that kept me entertained and engaged throughout.