Author: Marshall R. Maresca
Maradaine Constabulary, #1
Released: July 7th 2015
Length: 352 pages
Source: Publisher for review
A Murder of Mages marks the debut of Marshall Ryan Maresca’s novels of The Maradaine Constabulary, his second series set amid the bustling streets and crime-ridden districts of the exotic city called Maradaine. A Murder of Mages introduces us to this spellbinding port city as seen through the eyes of the people who strive to maintain law and order, the hardworking men and women of the Maradaine Constabulary.Satrine Rainey—former street rat, ex-spy, mother of two, and wife to a Constabulary Inspector who lies on the edge of death, injured in the line of duty—has been forced to fake her way into the post of Constabulary Inspector to support her family.Minox Welling is a brilliant, unorthodox Inspector and an Uncircled mage—almost a crime in itself. Nicknamed “the jinx” because of the misfortunes that seem to befall anyone around him, Minox has been partnered with Satrine because no one else will work with either of them.Their first case together—the ritual murder of a Circled mage— sends Satrine back to the streets she grew up on and brings Minox face-to-face with mage politics he’s desperate to avoid. As the body count rises, Satrine and Minox must race to catch the killer before their own secrets are exposed and they, too, become targets.
A Murder of Mages is an excellent new fantasy novel with a distinct urban fantasy feel, a rich and imaginative police procedural that tries to do so much and for the most part succeeds. It is a very dark novel set in Maradaine, a poverty-ridden city in which violence happens at every corner. We follow Satrine Rainey as she struggles to find her footing after an accident which leaves her husband unable to provide for their family.
It’s clear from the start that Satrine is a true mama bear, ready to do almost anything to feed her two daughters. She has no problem falsifying her letter or recommendation to become a police inspector, even if it means going back to her old neighborhood where she suffered terribly as a child.
Her partner there is Minox Welling, brilliant and misunderstood. He solves impossible cases, but he doesn’t play well with others and his fellow inspectors avoid and ridicule him. Welling soon realizes that Satrine is keeping secrets, but he also sees that she’s a great investigator and he decides to keep quiet. He has his fair share of secrets too, so why would he work against the first partner he’s liked in ages?
I enjoyed Satrine and Minox’s dynamic, especially since there was no possibility of romance. Satrine has a husband at home, and although he’s unable to walk or communicate, it’s clear that she loves him very much. With romance completely out of the picture, we are able to focus on what is truly important – the ritualistic murders of mages Satrine and Welling are working on.
As we learn more about the unforgiving city called Maradaine, we can’t help feeling grateful that we’re observing it from afar, and not actually living in it. It’s a dark and gritty place where poverty and crime rule the streets. It has a distinct historical feel, especially when it comes to women’s rights, and it’s vaguely reminiscent of Victorian London, at least the more unsavory parts of it. Maresca didn’t focus too much on worldbuilding in this first installment, choosing instead to give us only the information we absolutely need. His priority was always the mystery, and it was an excellent one. This is my first book by Maresca, but from what I understand, this isn’t his first series set in this world. It’s possible that the worldbuilding suffered because he counted on his old readers, the ones already familiar with it. But the setting was good enough even for us newbies and it provided a decent enough foundation that can be built upon in later installments.
There will be time for more details about Maradaine down the road. With two well-established characters and so much potential to work with, I predict an even better second installment. Like most series, this takes a while to really pick up, but it’s clear already that we have much to look forward to.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.