Blaze of glory by Michael Pryor

by

 bogweb

Those looking for something similar to Harry Potter could be mistaken for thinking they had found it with this title, the first in a new series from Australian author Michael Pryor. Aubrey is at boarding school with best friend George. He is brilliant at magic and discovers an evil man who needs to perform mass murder to become immortal. However, that is where the similarities to Harry Potter ends.

 Blaze of glory is set in a country named Albion, ostensibly England, in the period just prior to World War I. The main character Aubrey, who is in his final year of schooling, is from an upper class family. His father relinquished his peerage to the House of Lords for a seat in the Lower House and subsequently became Prime Minister. He had since been removed from the post amid much skulduggery. Aubrey’s best friend George is also at Stonelea, the elite boarding school, thanks to the generosity of Aubrey’s father.

 

Magic is a part of the normal world; some people are gifted at music, some at literature and some at magic; George is a gifted cornet player, while Aubrey is a gifted magician. Magic is used to enhance technology and is seen rather more as science and philosophy. Magic is no longer performed with wands; incantations are complex and must be precise to achieve desired results. However, studies are always continuing to perfect spells.

 

It is amidst this setting that the action takes place. Albion is on the brink of war with Holmland (Germany). Aubrey prevents his cousin Bertie’s (Prince Albert) assassination and Aubrey must discover who is really behind it and why war with Holmland is desirable. But amongst all of this tension and intrigue is yet another problem; Aubrey has been experimenting with ‘death magic’ and after one disastrous spell, he finds himself permanently on the brink of death. He is physically and mentally depleted just trying to ward off death, which hinders his investigations. Can Aubrey save Albion if he is unable to save himself?

 

Aubrey is a somewhat difficult character. As George says, ‘Sometimes he’s overbearing, sometimes he’s rash, sometimes he’s maddening, or arrogant. But he’s rarely dull.’ (p. 183). If the reader can overlook Aubrey’s faults and see him for what he really is, a dedicated and socially conscious young man who wants the best for his beloved country, they will in turn, be rewarded.

 Blaze of glory is not your run of the mill fantasy/adventure. It is full of political intrigue, mystery and action. There are some holes in the plot, but this should not detract too much from the overall excitement of such an adventure. This book is for the deeper thinking young adult. They may not be aware of the events that led up to World War I, but may like to investigate them after having read Blaze of glory. The setting is recognisably England circa 1913-14, however again young adults might like to compare advances in technology then to what appears in Blaze of glory. And although the first half of the novel tends to be male dominated, the second half introduces suffragettes, female explorers and the like.

 I have recommended Blaze of glory for somewhat older readers as I feel they would more likely understand the complexity of a country on the brink of war and the subtleties that are required to keep the peace. Blaze of glory should be read and  judged on its own merits, not simply compared with Harry Potter. I am sure that many readers will be eagerly awaiting the sequel, Heart of gold.

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