As much as I love fantasy, I don't read a lot of that genre nowadays, since it's so hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, with so many authors trying to be the next Tolkien or Rowling. Nevertheless, I had seen some favorable comments about "Sage: Tales from a Magical Kingdom," and I noticed that it was a short book, so I downloaded it.
It's a nice concept. The author, Maria E. Schneider, has created a mythical magical kingdom and introduced the reader to this realm through three short stories featuring the main characters. In a different twist, instead of having a world inhabited by ordinary people with a scattering of wizards, witches, and the like, in Sage, everyone is a magician of sorts, with each person specializing in a certain form of magic. The first character we're introduced to is Demetria, an aging grandmother who is a Master Gardener, having the ability to communicate with and influence plants. Demetria's husband, Ward, is a Stone Master, who has the power to manipulate stones (which comes in very handy in one of the stories).
In the first of the three stories, "Toil Trouble and Rot," Demetria discovers that the kingdom's crops are rotting due to a magic fungus introduced by Sage's arch enemies, the Rats who live just beyond Sage's borders. Demetria and Ward, with their children, Gavin and Xylia, set off to determine the extent of the damage and to destroy the fungus. With help from their friends, each of whom has a special magical power, they go in harm's way to battle the fungus, which is as deadly to humans as it is to plants.
"Dungeons and Decay," the second story, is about a search for Demetria and Ward's son Gavin, who is missing and is feared to have been captured by the Rats in the kingdom of Ratdom. In "Call to Arms," the third story, Demetria and Ward and their friends are involved in some nastiness by creepy crawlers from the Slithering Kingdom.
Sage is a magical kingdom, but the magic is white magic, or earth magic, where the human inhabitants are finely attuned to their natural surroundings and can subtly influence and communicate with objects like trees and stones and animals. There are no wizards hurling lightning bolts or casting evil spells in Sage, which was a relief from the typical fantasy story. In that sense, Sage is reminiscent of an earlier time when people were more aware of the natural world and their surroundings. Demetria, Ward, and the others in Sage are interesting characters and certainly sympathetic ones as they go about protecting their land from the dangerous, evil creatures who surround them.
Ms. Schneider's writing is very polished and professional, and I found no spelling or grammar errors. Also, the formatting was perfect. I take neither of these for granted, and the author obviously took a great deal of care in editing, the bane of many authors today.
I'm not sure what kind of reading audience "Sage" is targeted toward, but in my opinion, it's suitable for children through adults. There are some scenes that might frighten a very young child, but any kid who made it through Harry Potter would certainly be okay with "Sage."
My only negative comment - and it's a very minor one - is that there are only three stories in the book. The magical realm that Ms. Schneider has created certainly invites more stories, possibly even a full-length novel about Sage and its people and their relationships with other lands and people beyond its borders.
In the fantasy genre, it's getting harder and harder to find new books that are both original and well written. Maria Schneider has written a winner with "Sage."
(reviewed the day of purchase)