Here’s our spoiler-free review of Crimson Mage by Dorothy Dreyer. Get your copy by becoming a member today and then join us in the member portal to get your questions answered by Dorothy!

Mages are outlawed, and Mayhara has sworn to never use her powers again. Now she only wants to keep her head down, work hard, and free her family. But everything changes when the Lotus Empress returns, and Mayhara must choose between her family and her destiny.

Not offensive to women = 1/1 pt, Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2/2 pts, Passes the Bechdel-Wallace test = 3/3 pts, Artistic and/or Entertaining = 4/4 pts

We’re introduced to the world of Mayhara Gautama through the pinging of her ComLinq. In futuristic New Asia, such technology is commonplace, but so is magic. This science fiction-fantasy-dystopian setting is what first drew me to Crimson Mage. Mayhara strives to keep herself in the mundane world, because working for the government means a chance to free her family from the prison camps. As Mayhara is drawn back into the world of mages, the magic battles begin. As a fantasy fan, I couldn’t get enough!

Mayhara teams up with Jae-hyun, a fellow mage, to find the Lotus Empress. Jae is especially invested — this incarnation of the Lotus Empress is his sister Naree. Naree is both called to and repelled by the dark god Kashmeru. I loved how Naree didn’t want to hurt anyone…but she also couldn’t quite be trusted to act in her best interests. Mayhara and Jae’s interactions were fun, and I enjoyed seeing them grow into a team.

Above and Beyond General Media = 5/5 pts

Crimson Mage gets an easy full points here for Asian representation. The story passes for racial representation in the first conversation, and then again a hundred more times. Both Mayhara and Jae are simply not the type of heroes we see often enough in Western stories, but neither are tokenized here. The book represents the breadth of Asian identity in a futuristic urban fantasy setting. (The rest of the series expands that representation even more.)

Another aspect of the story is one our culture is grappling with now: Much as Mayhara wants to get her family out of the prison camps, Jae rightfully notes this “freedom” would only be trading one prison for another, because of the oppression they face in their society. Mayhara may want to keep playing it safe, but at the end of the day, the whole system needs to change. She cannot go back to her old life.

Score: 15/15

Her Story Arc Scale of Inclusivity image, a yellow number 15 inside of a pink Venus symbol

Watch the Crimson Mage book trailer:

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