I liked this duology, but I can see how it’s not for everyone. Things are a little more heated in The Awakened Mage, given how The Innocent Mage ended. A little, but not much. Certainly not much compared to most other fantasy books out there. As I mentioned in my review of The Innocent Mage, this series is really not high fantasy. It takes place in a high fantasy setting, but at it’s core it is a coming-of-age story. With a fair amount of slice-of-life storytelling used to facilitate that. The fantasy element is stronger here than in book 1, but it still takes a back seat for most of the story.
Now, an issue a lot of people had is the pacing. Given how much things started picking up at the end of book 1, it’s reasonable to expect things to be more intense for book 2. Well, that only sort-of kind-of happens. After they deal with the aftermath of the first book’s cliffhanger, not much happens until the grand finale. Everyone is forced to suddenly adjust to this great tragedy, and all their lives change as a result, but things do start getting back to normal until it all comes crashing down very suddenly.
So, when stuff starts happening towards the end of the book, boy does it happen fast. Secrets revealed, action, and more as the characters living slow, everyday lives are suddenly on a ticking clock. And it felt like this could have been done differently in 1 of 2 ways. Option 1: the protagonists dealt with the villain’s general instead of the big bad himself and continued into a greater story. Option 2: just have more stuff happen before the finale. Sprinkle the plot out over the whole story. I liked the main focus being character development, but again, it’s not for everyone.
There are apparently prequels and sequels to Kingmaker, Kingbreaker. The Innocent Mage and The Awakened Mage do not stand alone. But reading them alone…I don’t know. I enjoyed the books, but it felt like there could have been more. More self-contained within this series alone, without needing follow-up series later. But maybe Karen Miller could only get 2 books initially and this is what she wanted to do; I have no idea. But for all the complaints people have, the characters are (mostly) solid and the political aspect mixed into a slice-of-life story was entertaining. There are definitely worse books out there you could read.