"Battle of the Linguist Mages" review


Title: Battle of the Linguist Mages

Author: Scotto Moore

Subgenre: Urban fantasy, Science fiction

2021 Bingo squares: First person, “{Blank} of {Blank}”, Nonbinary character

Recommend: YES but it’s not going to be for everyone

Stars: 5/5


Battle of the Linguist Mages has one of the most off-the-rails wild bonkers plots I’ve encountered in a fantasy novel, ever. First of all, it’s called Battle of the Linguist Mages, and it’s literally about mages who use linguistics to do battle. Features include an incredibly snarky protagonist named Isobel, who happens to be the best player in the world at the virtual reality game Sparkle Dungeon (secretly a method of training linguist mages), sentient alien punctuation marks that have formed symbiotic relationships in humans' brains, power morphemes, and more uses of the words “instantiate” and “ontological” than I expected to see in a fantasy novel, ever.

“The damn thing is ontologically promiscuous.”

Really, this book was everything I wanted Wizard’s Bane to be, and so much more.

It was customary when Gorvod’s Frenzy was spotted to broadcast a coded rallying cry on the main chat channel to summon reinforcements to your location. The coded rallying cry was something like “HOLY FUCK IT’S GORVOD’S FRENZY,” which my scouts were now blasting to everyone.

It is absolutely essential going into this novel to not expect any measure of sanity; you’re here to have fun and appreciate Isobel’s snark (I highlighted about 10 quotes that I wanted to include in this review as I was reading; in the end I decided just to pick the first one chronologically). If you’re not up for that, I’ll be honest, you probably won’t enjoy this book that much - either skip it or read it at a time when you will appreciate it. (Please do the latter, it’s so much fucking fun.)

Also, if you are intrigued by the premise of linguist mages but not the VR game, or think that a plot centered around a player who excels at VR games sounds too much like Ready, Player One, don’t worry - there’s plenty of battle magic, and the plot is, uh, pretty unique. The VR game does play (haha) a pretty big role, but you’ll be left satisfied by how much attention the linguistic magic system gets. It’s very cool.

Overall I just had a blast reading this. There was one segment around maybe the 30% mark or so that dragged a bit, but other than that this book was perfect. Isobel reads like a self-assured, possibly-overpowered protagonist, but we see hints of her vulnerabilities at crucial moments that make her a great character, and the web of intrigue she’s dropped into is captivating. The plot, as I’ve mentioned, is just so much fun. This book is so much fun. Please read it.

Cover of Battle of the Linguist Mages

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River is a MediaWiki developer and admins Leaguepedia. This blog contains her fantasy novel reviews.