Fantasy Book Review: Servant Mage by Kate Elliott

Fantasy Book Review

Servant Mage
Author: Kate Elliott
Publication Date: Jan 18th 2022
Publisher: Tordotcom
Genres: Epic Fantasy

Servant Mage is a potentially great fantasy novel unfortunately constrained to a good fantasy novella. Kate Elliott packs it with enough backstory and world-building to anchor a full-length fantasy epic, but it's kept largely superficial, denied the depth and complexity of which she's more than capable.

The world-building is where this shines the brightest, especially in its magic system, which involves demons, dragons, and elemental powers. I was fascinated by how it all works, not to mention how and why the Liberationists fear it so much, making servants of mages and denying them their true potential. There's a deep political struggle behind it all as well, between those Liberationists and the Monarchists they defeated years ago, but it's a muddy sort of conflict with a lot of ugliness on both sides.

And that brings me to my biggest challenge with the world and its characters - it's an ugly place and not one of them is even marginally likable. I was curious about who they were and where their loyalties might lie, and there was a hint one one romance and a suggestion of another, either of which might reveal a little personality, but there's too many characters and too few pages to do them justice. There are seeds of doubt planted early on, details that make us wonder if the Monarchists we're following are any better than their opponents, and that moral grey space . . . well, it's just not that appealing.

There are some great moments here, beautiful acts of magic that give the story some life, some brightness, and some color, but they're just not enough to turn the mood. I liked Servant Mage as a novella, and I can see how I might even love it as a novel, but we're sadly not given the chance.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀

My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


  1. Thanks for the warning, I always feel like novellas need to be longer!


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