The New Magic is a direct continuation of Dragon’s Trail. Considering how much I liked Malik’s first novel, I was looking forward to this one!
What to expect
An epic fantasy (technically portal fantasy, as the protagonist started on Earth in the first novel), with all the trappings – warring houses, enemies within and without, fantastical creatures, magic, and – of course – swords galore.
The novel takes place six months after Dragon’s Trail end. The protagonist are fully enmeshed in local life of their new world (no trips back to earth), and the novel start right off the bat with new complications.
The “feel” of the novel is somewhat different than the first one, but that isn’t a bad thing. It’s less about the hyper-competent hero (though there is plenty of sword-fighting), and a bit more about him adjusting to the societies and political culture of the world.
What I liked
I love Malik’s action sequences. His knowledge and attention to detail about ancient and modern warfare are amazing, and he does an awesome job of giving a realistic depiction of how technology affected arms and armour manufacture, and how in turn those would affect the battlefield.
Don’t mistake this for a pulpy swords & sorcery novel, though. Malik’s prose is crisp and clear, succinctly evocative. He has a deft touch in expanding descriptions exactly where they’re needed, drawing on emotions to make the reader feel as the characters feel and see what they see, and staying out of the way when the pace matters more. Malik’s style has definitely matured, and considering his already-high starting point this just makes this novel an absolute pleasure.
It was also great to see Jarrod’s growth as a character. He was a bit of a jerk in the first novel, but he’s growing up and maturing which makes for an excellent gritty protagonist. It’s also nice to see a strong, egalitarian society, that while it has its unique idiosyncracies doesn’t degenerate into misogyny.
What to be aware of
In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, the is a LOT of discussion about swords, armour, and HEMA-style fighting. This is very much a “guy” novel, plot-driven with intense action. While Malik render excellent descriptions of emotions, these aren’t romantic (but do expect to cry at some points).