Jane Routley

Eos / 512 pages / (April 6, 1999)

ISBN: 0380794276

India’s testing bombs. Children are shooting their classmates. Somewhere monkeys are percolating another pandemic. It’s time for a little vacation from reality. Fire Angels is just the escapist fare that can take you away from all this.

If you caught Mage Heart, Jane Routley’s debut novel, you’ve no doubt been waiting impatiently for the next instalment of the adventure. Worry not — you won’t be disappointed by the return of Dion, girl mage and demonslayer. The quest to defeat evil continues.

If you, like me, are coming in on the second act, Routley is watching out for you; the story line won’t leave you lost. Thoughtfully included at the start of the novel are a cast of characters, a map of the territory, and a prologue that provides all of the necessary background without sinking into B-movie exposition. Fire Angels may entice you to seek out a copy of Mage Heart, but it works equally well as a stand-alone novel.

Dion has spent the years since the close of the first volume in self-imposed exile in Cardun, living in anonymity, using her amazing magical power as a healer. A request for help from the family she can barely remember wins her grudging agreement to return to Moria. Her mission: rout out the evil of necromancy and crush the Great Destroyer.

Too bad magic is now outlawed in her homeland, punishable by death.

It’s an entertaining read, if not an instant classic. Routley keeps the action moving along at a brisk pace; a good thing since the story covers a great deal of ground. The settings are vividly described, whether the pastoral villages, the comparative luxury of royal court, or the nightmarish realm of the necromancers.

The main characters are, well, fairy tale characters. While interesting, they aren’t likely to act in any way that will truly surprise readers. Routley delves deeper into their motivations and thoughts than most authors, but the resulting actions are much the same.

If there is one weakness in the narrative, it is the authenticity of the dialogue. The occasional modern expression creeps in with jarring results. It happens infrequently, but it is bothersome and breaks the mood.

But it is the story as a whole that grabs the reader and makes Fire Angels such a pleasure. Strange creatures and stranger characters. Mystical locales. Enviable abilities. Compelling situations. It never occurs to doubt the possibility of the tale, only to hurry to learn the fate of the people and places between the covers.

Some good news for everyone who enjoys Routley’s tale: Fire Angels is set up perfectly for another volume. There is more to tell about Dion’s life and more questions left unanswered. Look for the further adventures of the beautiful, young mage and the land where magic is an accident of birth.