Into the Labyrinth by John Bierce (Mage Errant 1)

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I picked this up because of the narrator, Ralph Lister, who happens to be one of my favorite audiobook performers. His narration of this was superb, like always.

The main character, Hugh, starts off the book as a “loser”. He’s in a mage school, he’s not from the noble class, he has no friends … but he does have a bully. His life is fairly miserable and he feels like an utter failure with very little in the way of happiness. There’s an event called The Choosing where students from the college get selected to be an apprentice for a random mage. Usually it’s just some regular mage with no notoriety, but sometimes the famous mages come down and select an apprentice as well. He was chosen, however, by an errant librarian – a mage who goes about the realm collecting books n’ what not. Hugh is pretty stoked but doesn’t understand why he was chosen. This new mentor also selected other lackluster students to be his apprentices, but they don’t know why.

I liked Hugh well enough as a character, in fact most of the characters in this were written specifically to be likable in their own ways – except for maybe Talia. Hugh means well, he’s loyal to his friends, and he comes with a sad backstory that’s meant to bring out empathy for the character. His group of friends that he forms are all loyal to each other, good friends to one another, and work well together. It makes for a warm sort of atmosphere as this loner kid learns how to trust himself and others. That said, it could be a little saccharine at times, but that’s largely personal taste.

I think the world building is the big highlight of the book, and whether you would enjoy it or not is heavily dependent on if you like high fantasy magic school settings. The city of Skyhold is built into the side of a mountain with a library full of dangerous magic books. There are dragons, minotaurs, krakens, sphyinx’s, semi sentient books, semi sentient libraries, and more magic than you could shake a stick at. The magic system is in depth and vast, completely integral to the story and characters. I loved the origami golems that roamed the stacks of books picking out books and bringing them back to people.

The plot is very simple, and this may be middle grade? I’m a terrible judge of these things. It feels about Harry Potter level in the earlier books, it’s only 167 pages and read very quickly. I was done within a couple of hours. I think this would appeal to people who have kids that read fantasy or those who enjoy classic magic school YA books.


  • Plot: 10/15
  • Characters: 11/15
  • World Building: 12/15
  • Writing: 11/15
  • Pacing: 11/15
  • Originality: 10/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 6/10

Final Score: 71/100 or 3.5/5 on Goodreads