4 out of 4 stars
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When it comes to fantasy novels and movies where teenagers are involved, it always seems like violence is handled with kid gloves and no one ever gets hurt or dies, even the random soldier bad guys. It's one of my least favorite tropes as it pulls me out of the world someone has created, and luckily Mark of the Remaker by Ian Yamagata doesn't fall prey to it. Despite the fact that the main character is only 19, there's serious danger here and blood is shed in each battle. Don't get me wrong, this isn't gory or gruesome at all or I wouldn't even be able to read it, it's more like "he sliced one soldier with his sword, then parried an attack and ran his sword through a second soldier."
Mark of the Remaker is something of an origin story for Hugo Ari, a 19 year old becoming a member of the Bringer Corps, the soldiers of a small town called Bringer. On a challenge to kill the biggest bear they can find, his group goes off and finds one, barely defeating it before another group is nearly killed by a gigantic beast of a bear. This is when Hugo begins to discover his powers, and from here on out an epic tale begins as the evil Techan empire discover him and a war ensues. Writing this now and thinking back, it's amazing how far he comes in this novel. The Techan empire's main characters - four generals and a couple others - are pretty solid characters themselves, and the story does a good job of painting several points of view.
As I said, this is somewhat of an origin story, and therefore it's only the first in a series. I'm rarely a fan of the fantasy series cliché, but this is the third book I've read in a row that does it right and has me looking forward to the next in the series! It's over 300 pages, and the action is certainly not dragged out to try to make what could be one book into an endless cycle of releases. Speaking of action, Ian Yamagata does a wonderful job here of creating action scenes that have you wondering what's coming next and curious how things will end positively without dragging on forever. I won't give any spoilers, but Hugo's Remaker abilities are quite fun to watch play out, and so are the steampunk-ish touches. We have steam cannons, airships, blade cores that create weapons similar to light sabers and even golems to see at play here!
As far as negatives to the book, there are a few character inconsistencies that I became confused by. Half way through, I was actually going to point out that the few women in this story were all rather soft and ineffective, but by the end that seemed to change. One of the Techan generals especially, General Analah Crescent, comes off as a tough character at first, but then is suddenly portrayed as a lovesick puppy to another character for a while. The book even has the male character think to himself that her forwardness is unattractive. It's not until much later that we see why she acts that way, but it still comes off a bit over the top.
Minor quibbles aside, Ian Yamagata's Mark of the Remaker is easily worth 4 out of 4 stars. Anyone who enjoys fantasy, especially with a touch of steampunk, will enjoy this book. If you prefer your stories dark, or if you aren't a fan of fantasy, however, this one probably won't sway you.
Mark of the Remaker
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