Series review: Dark Mage by Rachel E Carter

I read Non-Heir, a free prequel to Rachel E Carter’s Dark Mage series, and I’ve been desperate to read the rest since (Non-Heir actually featured as the “H” book in my alphabet challenge, so it’s been a while).

And it’s been a while since we had a series review on the site, so here goes:

First Year

I already knew (from Non-Heir) that I loved Rachel E Carter’s writing. First Year led me into the fabulous world of Jerar and its magical academy. Ryiah (I still don’t know how I should be pronouncing her name!) was a smashing character to filter the experience through. What I especially liked was how the romance was handled. Ryiah is clearly attracted to Prince Darren, but unlike almost every other YA book out there, she doesn’t throw away everyone and everything that’s important to her for his sake. She has far more important things than boys to think about and she does everything she can to quash her inconvenient and irritating attraction. I like her!


My word, this woman can write! There were some fabulous battle scenes that carried me away with them. In places I’ll confess it was a bit choppy. Three (I think) years of study get covered in one book, so we seemed to make big jumps in places, but it was lovely to be back in the world of the mages. And the relationship between Ryiah and Darren was simply gorgeous. I hate romances where the two really shouldn’t be together but they just kind of shrug and go, ‘Oh, we can’t help ourselves, sorry-not-sorry.’ There was real anguish here as the pair of them tried to do the right thing. Mind you, I think she should have punched him and walked out at the end. The very least he deserved was to be left hanging for a week or two!


I took a couple of chapters to settle in to Candidate – I wondered if it was a mistake to have Darren and Ryish together because with their romance resolved, a big source of tension is removed and I hoped they weren’t going to squabble the whole book.

I should have known better than to doubt Rachel E Carter. Candidate is another wonderful excursion into the world of the mages. There were lots of twists and turns – and when Ryiah put it all together at the end … breathtaking.

Last Stand

I wasn’t immediately swept away by the last book in the way I wanted to be. For someone who must have studied strategy, etc. at the Academy, Ryiah couldn’t see a trap coming from a mile off (I was shouting at her, I did try to warn her not to be so stupid; she didn’t listen), which had me doubting her sense a bit. And I was frustrated by her inability through most of the book to say a c-complete s-sentence without s-stuttering. I know she was facing some dramatic stuff, but her strength and her abilities seemed to have taken a step back.

HOWEVER, the ending was so utterly glorious that I’ll forgive any earlier huffs and puffs. The last stand magic was magnificent, and the epilogue was definitely needed and entirely satisfactory-sigh-worthy.

This is a smashing series, highly recommended.

Katy Haye writes speculative YA fiction. Try steampunk short, The Replacement Princess, set in an alternate, war-torn 1840s England, for free.

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