Review of The Light Ages by

Book cover for The Light Ages

It’s a shame. I really enjoyed Journeys, but my first attempt at novel-length Ian R. MacLeod falls short.

The Light Ages takes place in an alternative England where the ability to manipulate aether has jumpstarted steam engine technology somewhat. Other technologies, like electricity, have fallen by the wayside as too unreliable. The result is a grittier, dirtier, more magical and more chaotic industrialized England.

My problems stem from the writing style. MacLeod doesn’t value the nature of the scene in this book. Narration is interminable, and very little seems to happen—or things happen, but we’re told about them instead of being shown them. Ten chapters and a hundred pages in, and I don’t really have a handle on what the stakes are or why I should care. It’s a drab, dusty, dreary place to live, and I sympathize with Robert a little bit … but why, exactly, is he special? So far MacLeod hasn’t bothered to answer that, or drop more than a few frustratingly dim clues.

I went into this looking for a good ol’fashioned fantasy novel—by which I mean, something that has a little magic, a little conflict, a little fun. There’s plenty of magic in here, but it’s constrained. There’s conflict here, but it’s all in the background, under the surface, and it never boils over to the point of holding my attention. There is no fun to be had here, at least not from what I’ve read so far.

By all means, you might enjoy this book much more than I did—I don’t think it’s bad, but I just don’t want to read it right now.

Engagement

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