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THE MAGISTER'S MASK
By Deborah Fredericks
Dragon Moon Press, October 2004 ($19.95)
Reviewed by Robert Thompson
It took me about 15 pages to "get into it," but once it got going, I found myself wanting more and more to follow the story.
Shenza, Our Heroine, Just "graduated" from her apprenticeship to the local Magister.
That is kind of a neat usage of the word as it applies to this story. Magister: A user of magick AND the position somewhat akin to our own legal system's Magistrates. So, Shenza is sort of a criminal investigator who uses magick as well as her own wits and logic to investigate crimes.
Her very first case is a big one though. Someone has killed their island's "First Lord" (sort of a king) in a rather spectacular and gruesome way.
There is a suspect in custody, and plenty of witnesses. Trouble is, there is another witness that says that the suspect was dead drunk on the floor of his little shop at the time of the crime. Shenza tends to believe the one witness rather than the many.
And it gets a bit more complicated from there. Unfortunately, the "spirit world" is upset about this killing, as he "First Lord" is the only human that they have any care about at all. So, Elemental powers have set a deadline for Shenza to solve the crime and bring the killer to justice... Or, they will just destroy the whole island and be done with the pesky humans.
Aided by Juss, an earnest young policeman, and her old Master, Magister Laraquies, Shenza must try to solve the case, prevent the suspect in custody from being "lynched," all the while dealing with a Chief of Police (who doesn't admit to the existence of magick in a land where magick is a fact of life practiced by a goodly percentage of its population), who doesn't like Shenza in particular or the position of Magister in general, impatient Elemental Powers, and other magick users and "social climbers" that have their own agenda.
Oh, and the killer is trying to kill HER too.
The middle part of the book was the best. I already mentioned that it was slow to start, and the ending was OK, but struck me as kind of flat, even though it was intended to be vividly exciting.
All in all, it was an entertaining read, sometimes a real "page turner," but not quite good enough to go into my "must read" category. A pleasant way to kill a couple of hours, not much more...
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