The Stone Mage and the Sea
by Sean Williams
Matthew Long's Rating: 3.5 out of 4
In a land where those who wield magic rule, a boy's coming of age will be a harrowing event. Even more so if you have no idea that it is coming. And our young hero-to-be has little clue to his future.
In his newest novel, Australian writer Sean Williams presents a land divided and ruled over by two separate powers, that of the Stone Mages and Sky Wardens. The Sky Wardens control the Strand, the area that runs along the coastline, while the Stone Mages control the Interior, the inland deserts of Gooron, the setting for this story. Both draw their magic from the 'Change', a source of power that can be tapped into to create small magic and parlour tricks, or devastating elemental control and energy blasts.
It is along the Strand that Sal and his father travel from town to town, never staying for that long. But the town of Fundelry is different. Sal's father has come here seeking something, or someone. But with a town that has little tolerance for outsiders, will he be able to find what he is looking for, before the past he is running from catches up with him and his son? What is it that the old man Lodo sees in Sal that could drastically change his life forever?
As is always a must when dealing with magic in a fantasy novel, Williams establishes the base of that magic. The Stone Mages have their sources and strengths, the Sky Wardens theirs, and we see the way in which they can tap this energy. And we also see that it can have its drawbacks. To use the magic requires using part of your own strength, and to use too much can leave so drained that you can lose yourself.
Williams' characterisation of both Sal and Shilly are great. We have two teenagers who think that they know everything, and are proved to be wrong, just as many teenagers are. They are not adults trapped in kids' bodies, making no mistakes and always having a way out of things. They fight, they make mistakes, and they show raw power that is uncontrolled.
There is little that I can find all that bad. One of the main ones is Kemp. Kemp just seems to be a bully just because he is a bully, with no hint of the motivations behind why. It is obvious that he will play some role in the story to come; yet the grudge between him and Sal could have been built up a little more.
The extent of Lodo's power is also a little confusing. For someone who ran from his training, and knows only a small amount of the whole, to hold his own against the Alcaide and keep the Sky Wardens fooled for so long stretches the story a little. Then again, maybe Lodo was being a little self-depreciating when speaking of his power.
Sal's contribution to the final battle, one boy taking out the second most powerful Sky Warden and seriously injuring the strongest. Be a smart idea to keep on his good side.