Don your Mechanic’s jackets and twist the World Illusion. It’s time for some steampunk, science-fantasy action!
This is going to be tricky. Reviewing an entire series without giving spoilers is a tall task, especially for my second review. Let’s see how it goes.
The Pillars of Reality series by Jack Cambell follows the adventures of Mechanic Mari and Mage Alain, members of the rival Great Guilds that rule the world of Dematr. They make unlikely allies, break almost every rule of their respective guilds, and discover that their world is about to change forever.
Dematr is the most imaginative and creative setting that I’ve seen in a long time. The cultures of the various nations are interesting and memorable, the struggles are familiar, and the people act just like you’d expect people to act. I do suggest getting the map because where certain places are can get a bit confusing sometimes.
Of course what makes Dematr truly unique are the two Great Guilds, the Mechanics Guild and the Mage Guild. These two titanic organizations rule Dematr, giving magical or mechanical aid only to those countries that can afford it and forcibly separating potential Mages and Mechanics from their families. These guilds are also bitter rivals, the Mechanics claiming that Mage spells are nothing more than tricks and Mages saying the same about Mechanic devices.
The way magic works in this world is wonderfully original. Mages are put through harsh training to discard emotions and see the world as nothing but an illusion and the people as nothing but shadows within the illusion. In this way, Mages can then use their power to change the world illusion, creating the illusion of a hole in the illusion of a wall, or creating the illusion of heat near the person that is nothing but a shadow to them. Yet there is one important limit to their power. They cannot directly affect people with spells. The Elders keep this knowledge hidden from non-Mages and tell other Mages that this limitation is because no Mage could ever completely separate themselves from emotion. But is this the truth?
Here comes the hard part. There are six books in this series, how can I talk about them without spoilers? Well, I’ll try my best.
The plot is great with many twist and turns that don’t come out of left field but can still surprise you. I was hesitant at first when the author introduced a prophecy, but the way its handled and integrated into the world works.
The plot also gradually shifts from small adventures to larger, more important missions later on, but loses none of its enjoyability or pace.
That’s all I can say without spoilers I’m afraid. But it is a great story.
The absolute best part of this series is the characters.
And of all these great characters, Mari and Alain are an absolute joy to follow. I group them together because their dynamic is amazing. After being forced to work together to survive, Mari and Alain find themselves forming a strong friendship (and perhaps something more) despite the efforts of their guilds.
Mari is strong-willed, smart, and very humble. She wants nothing more than to fix mechanical problems and invent new things, but the Mechanics Guild doesn’t allow for innovation and the crumbling world around her brings out the leader in her. She is a fantastic role-model for anyone to follow and her struggles against power-hungry authority figures are immensely relatable and satisfying.
You would think that having his emotions suppressed would make Alain a boring character, but you would be wrong. His struggle to regain his emotions and relearn social norms can easily played for both heart wrenching drama or great comedy. Additionally, seeing the world through a Mage’s eyes gives a great impression of just how wondrous even simple machines can seem to one who uses little to no technology.
Honestly I’m just going to have to devote an entire spoiler post to these two because I have so much to talk about with them.
As for everyone else, though they aren’t as deeply explored, you can relate to any of them, even the despicable politicians and Guild Leaders have understandable motivations.
Some of my favorite side-characters include:
Asha–A Mage with jaw-dropping natural beauty that is punished constantly by the Elders for something she can’t control.
Beth (I think that’s her name. Of all the names, hers is the only one I can’t remember.)–A young Mechanic with a dark past.
General Flinn–A loyal friend and open-minded commander of the Confederation’s forces.
Ali–One of Mari’s oldest friends from Mechanic school and expert in things that go BOOM!
Kailu–Another of Mari’s Mechanic friends, an easy-going theorist, and Ali’s boyfriend.
Buy this series now! It is by far one of my absolute favorite! I know there isn’t much I could tell you about in this review, but is absolutely amazing.
I’m running out of synonyms for good, so I’m going to give you the score now.
On a scale from 1 to 10, I give The Pillars of Reality by Jack Campbell a 10!
It’s not perfect, nothing is, but it is the book series that gave me everything I wanted and so much more. I’m pretty sure the author has already started writing the sequel series and you can be sure that I’ll be there to read it.
Next time: Grab your super-suits and don’t forget to finish your homework early. We’ll be taking a look at Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain by Richard Roberts.
See you there!