Bright Steel. Wow. Masters and Mages is now a finished trilogy, and Bright Steel ramps up every aspect that made Cold Iron and Dark Forge utterly brilliant. Fearsome battles with swords and sorcery, emotional punches, back-alley dealings and one of the best coming-of-age heroes I have read, Bright Steel is a wonderful conclusion to Miles Cameron’s spy-thriller-fantasy Masters and Mages.
“Selfishness and tyranny do not make for stable allies.”
“Can I quote you on that?”
To begin with, I am a massive fan of Miles Cameron. His easy going writing style, authentic detail and memorable characters really create fantastic books. And each one is so different. Each book I read of Cameron highlights how he is changing as an author, writing new and unique material that is unexpected and totally welcome, as well as including all of his trademark elements. Bright Steel is the finale to the trilogy that Cold Iron and Dark Forge deserved. These books are so readable because of the incredible variety of scenes, set-pieces, politics and characters that are within them.
‘When trouble didn’t stay away, it was routinely punched in the head and thrown in the Great Canal.’
Cold Iron introduced us to Aranthur as he unwittingly began a journey as an Academy student who is on the path to greatness. Dark Forge followed Aranthur and the friends he made as he became someone important. Bright Steel continues with Aranthur, exploring the strange and brilliant arc that he has been through. He is a young man who wants to be the best he can be, for himself and those he loves. And he is painfully aware of how the path he leads can easily turn him into an ill-hearted man. He wants to be loyal and generous, kind, to not kill, but he finds himself in scenarios that push his morality. I loved the scenes that explored his awareness of his actions, and the conversations he had with characters about these situations.
The cast behind Aranthur also make this one of my favourite fantasy books to date. Those who readers have grown to love since Book 1, such as Dahlia, Kallatronis and Drako, each have their individual impacts upon this book. As they assist Aranthur and work through betrayals, dire scenarios and joyful occasions as friends, they only added to the story. Cameron’s knack for dialogue in this book in particular was immensely strong, with witty conversations that had me laughing out loud, and serious moments, adding to the realism of their friendships.
‘What is life but the lust for power?’
The story was engaging, fun and intense, with such a diversity of scenes, action pieces and city-politics that meant I was always on my toes. I have found myself each day longing to get back to reading this story. It captivated me so much that I actually missed my bus stop on TWO occasions. It was worth the extra walking (which I also did whilst reading). I believe I would have enjoyed a refreshment in the specific technical terminology. Maybe my brain had accidentally forgot some obvious terms but there are a lot of unique terms to these stories, all of which add to the detail of Cameron’s world-building! One thing that I am usually not a fan of is magic and magical lore. However, this story portrayed the magic in such a way that it felt authentic and real, and I loved the scenes where magic was explored.
Thank you so much to Gollancz for the opportunity to read this amazing story early, and be involved in the blog tour! If you’ve been waiting for a fantasy tale that is unique and fun, tense and bloody, with the famous Cameron battles and urgent stories, please read these books. You won’t regret it.
‘When you two are struggling to set the measure between you, you can step back all you want – back out of the window if you will. But once your blades touch, you must go forward until you conquer or die.’
5/5 – The cover quote (by my dad!) says that the Masters and Mages trilogy is a masterclass in modern fantasy, and I could not agree more. Bright Steel is a story of friendship, the complications of how simple choices affect your life in ways you could not imagine, and how swords in books will never ever get old or boring. Fantastic storytelling.