Well, that didn’t take long. I got 82 pages into Mage’s Blood, by David Hair, which precedes Ascendant’s Rite, and I won’t bother to finish the first or start Ascendant’s Rite. The writing is fine, but the literally foamy bigotry of the Saint-Empress Mother was the straw that broke my camel. If I wanted cartoon villains, I’d be watching a cartoon. And life is too short for me to keep going when I know that I’ll be hating myself every minute that I continue. And, finally, when 82 pages in, I am still in chapter 1 with no interest in even finishing the chapter, it’s time to call.
I checked out Hair’s books because they had been well-reviewed, especially in regards to the world-building. I wasn’t impressed: the world-building is predictably East vs West, brown vs white, and the characterization of the (many) actors is heavy-handed and obvious. This may be because the novels are targeted towards a YA audience, and an editorial choice was made to forego subtlety in favor of delivering a clear and unambiguous text. There is no question who the good guys and the bad guys are, as soon as each is introduced–frankly, the characters thus far are stereotypes, easily recognizable tropes in media.
I am not the audience for these books. Fans of the Planesrunner (Everness) books by Ian McDonald will probably enjoy Mr Hair’s quartet, assuming said fans enjoy fantasy as well as SF/Steampunk.