Tuesday, 10 January 2012

'The Whitefire Crossing' - Courtney Schafer

The Whitefire Crossing is the debut novel of Courtney Schafer, and looks like it could be a rather pleasant fantasy novel with powerful magic, mystery and intrigue. The blurb tells of Dev, a smuggler, who finds himself smuggling a person instead of small, easy to hide, goods. Kiran, a young Mage, is desperate to escape the clutches of his powerful master, and prepared to pay a lot to accomplish this. All Dev needs to do is take Kiran safely across a dangerous mountain, and through a magically guarded border. Piece of cake. I am dying to find out how this is all going to go horribly wrong. Thank you Night Shade Books for providing me with a review copy of The Whitefire Crossing

I'm too excited about the world building too start with my plot summary. Courtney Schafer has created a really compelling and interesting world overflowing with lore and magic. Ninavel, where it all starts, was founded out in the desert where there was no water or food, but plenty of valuable metals in the mountains surrounding it. The city's founder was deemed crazy, and no one thought he would succeed. Then the founder made an offer to all mages, which they could not refuse. They would be free to practice their magic and conduct research almost without restraints. All they needed to do in return was to conjure up water. Instant richness achieved!

So on one side of the mountain range we have a city practically ruled by mages and their whims. It's safe to say a lot of the magic practiced in Ninavel is not what we would call white magic. Blood and pain are great sources of power. On the other side of the Whitefires lies Alathia, a country with a lot stricter views on magic. Dev smuggles illegal charms from Ninavel over the Alathian border. The border is enforced by a magical barrier, which lets the Alathian Council detect any illegal uses of magic. To Kiran, this is the perfect place to flee if you are being hunted by a powerful and vengeful mage.

Dev and Kiran are brought together through an intermediary, who is not completely honest with either party. Dishonesty and secrets are not the best way to start a relationship, not even a business relationship. These secrets are part of what makes The Whitefire Crossing such a good read. A lot is at stake here for both parties, and they are placing an awful lot of trust in a complete stranger, which both Dev and Kiran struggles with. 

Courtney Schafer does a very good job with her two main characters, who are both very likeable and easy to sympathise with. Dev is dark and brooding. He has seen the world, has connections, and feels older than his age. Kiran is more naive, and amazed at the new sights and experiences. To his surprise, Dev is enjoying showing Kiran the ropes. It's very much a story about two young men from two very different backgrounds, who will learn a lot about trust, and who they really are, and what truly matters. I like how Courtney Schafer brings a touch of gentleness to her characters. They are not all hard edges, there is also room for a softer core. 
“Next time, think twice,” I growled. “This isn’t some fucking kids game. At the border, we’ll be playing with our lives.”“I know,” he said quietly. My anger faded at the sincerity in his voice.
Courtney Schafer can certainly spin a yarn, and I found myself quickly being pulled into the story. A very intriguing setting together with some very likeable characters is what you can expect from The Whitefire Crossing. It's not exactly a brick of a book, but she still manages to give us duelling mages, cloak and dagger, avalanches and some risky climbing. Actually, Dev's (and Courtney's) obsession with climbing was my least favourite parts of the book. I'm still well impressed with The Whitefire Crossing, and look forward to reading the next part, The Tainted City

The Whitefire Crossing weighs in at 300 pages and is published by Night Shade Books

Recommendation: read

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