The Mage On The Hill by Angel Martinez :: Review


Book Info

Title: The Mage On The Hill

Series: The Web Of Arcana

Author: Angel Martinez

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Published: 7 May 2019

Cover Design: Tiferet Designs

Length: 53,721 words

Keywords : Urban Fantasy, M/M, May/December, teacher/student, not good enough, tortured hero, shared peril, tragic past, scars, acceptance, danger, grief, guilt, hope, survivor guilt, magic, spring, mage, professor, witches, wizards, age difference, bisexual, depression, wizard, dark, forests

Add To


Toby’s wild magic is killing him. The mage guilds have given up on him, and it’s only a matter of time before he dies in a spectacular, catastrophic bang. His only hope is an exiled wizard who lives in seclusion—and is rumored to have lost his mind.

The years alone on his hilltop estate have not been good for Darius Valstad. After the magical accident that disfigured him and nearly drowned Pittsburgh, he drifts through his days, a wraith trapped in memories and depression. Until a stricken young man collapses on his driveway, one who claims Darius is his last chance.


For the first time in fifteen years, Darius must make a choice—leave this wild mage to his fate or take him in and try to teach him, which may kill them both. The old Darius, brash and commanding, wouldn’t have hesitated. Darius the exile isn’t sure he can find the energy to try.


This story world is based around the world we live in, though there are born with the gift of magical powers, Mages.  The author does a good job of showing us the way the magic system works and what happens when it does not work.  We follow a young student mage Toby.

Toby has been told his destiny is to die.  Why? Because the guilds have failed to teach him to channel his magic, which causes great danger not only to Toby but people and environment around him.   He is told he will be transferred to a hospice where he will be sedated and starved till his dies as per the guild’s rules.

Having learnt that there is one man who can help in Toby’s last-ditch attempt to avoid death, he escapes and finds the professor (Darius).

Darius is exiled from the guilds of the magic world, he is forbidden from teaching because of one mistake.   He is a recluse and a shadow of the man he once was.

Then Toby turns up begging Darius to try and teach him how to channel his magic.

The two characters are so different, We have Toby who even in the face of death refuses to give up.  

And we have the professor, Darius, who can hardly speak a sentence or socialise with anyone.

Both characters need saving,

The way the author portrays their relationship from unwanted guest and grumpy recluse, to student / teacher.  And then eventually lovers is well written and nicely paced as is the story as a whole.

The secondary characters of Darius’s friends are a colourful pack and very unique, each shunned by the Guilds, but when they team up together become a force to be reckoned with. 

We are led on a exciting adventure against time and the guilds are hot on Toby’s heels to find him.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story and loved the characters well except the masters from the guilds who are so blinkered they do not see that they are in the wrong.

Exclusive Author Chat.

Why Fantasy and Magic?

Excellent question. Why would any author choose to write outside of contemporary genres? Contemporary stories outsell all other genres and sub-genres, year after year. Why would we do that to ourselves?

My glib answer is that I live in the real world all day, why would I want to write about it? But that’s not really enough of an answer or the whole answer.

As a kid, fantasy attracted me in the form of folk and fairytales, which grew out of oral tradition. Because of this there’s a framework structure and a basic story upon which a skillful teller can build. There are known symbols and signals. Once upon a time is the signal that a certain type of story is about to begin. Talking animals, old women met at too convenient times, groaning feasts with no one at the table, too-shiny fruit—every child learns what these things signal in fairytales. The ability to anticipate what comes next is a developing skill in small humans and fairytales are a safe place for it. Fantasy is also where we first encounter monsters in a milieu where they can’t hurt us, and we learn that monsters can be beaten.

I don’t think I can emphasize that enough. Every kid knows there are monsters. Fairytales let us know that we can win against the monsters.

Writing fantasy takes those childhood feelings and branches them into thousands of possibilities. Whether it’s urban fantasy or high fantasy, we’re able to approach the world at one remove – it’s nearly our world, but not quite. And with that step sideways, through both metaphor and altered setting, we can examine issues from new angles we might not see in a real world setting.

And magic? The most useful and elastic of them all. A metaphor for power, for the natural world, for social dynamics – I find magical systems endlessly fascinating. Where does it come from? How does the magic practitioner use it? What are the consequences of using it or using it too much or for the wrong reasons or in the wrong way?


 It’s killing him. We have to end this.

Too cruel to force him to keep struggling.

I don’t understand. He should be finding a minor channel at least. Something. He shouldn’t be at this level of physical distress and still be able to throw so much.

We can’t condone pushing on. Dangerous for him and for everyone in a five-mile radius. We’ll have another Darius situation on our hands.

You’ll tell him?

As soon as he’s able to hear it, yes.

Toby drifted from gray misery to scarlet agony, the voices floating to him in fits and starts. His instructors, the director—they were talking about him and they sounded done with him, just like the previous six guilds that had tossed him to the curb. Wild magic. Unplaceable on the web of Arcana. Unsustainable and eventually deadly. The only remaining bets anyone could make now were how many people he took with him when he went out with a catastrophic bang.

Hands lifted him. The familiar sensations of stretcher and rolling followed him down into the dark.


“What’s this?” Toby peered at the papers on the rolling tray, not quite up to focusing through his pounding headache.

The director pulled a chair close and cleared his throat uncomfortably. “We discussed that this might be a possibility someday, Tobias.”

“We’ve talked about a bunch of stuff.”

Director Whittaker let out a sharp sigh.

“Not saying it to be a smartass, sir. I can’t get my eyes to read this just yet.” Toby shifted on the infirmary bed. His fifth stay in this wing of the guildhall and the mattresses hadn’t managed to grow any more comfortable. “Couple hours I should be able to.”

“Ah. My apologies.” The director returned to a concerned parental pose, hands clasped between his knees as he leaned forward. “These are your separation papers from the Montchanin Guildhall.”

Toby swallowed hard. “You’re giving up on me? Already?”

“I’m so sorry, Tobias.” Director Whittaker patted his arm. “The Kovar method is nearly infallible—”

“Nearly. You said nearly.” Despite his pounding head, Toby sat up, hanging on to the director’s hand as hard as he could. “Please don’t do this. You said you’d help me.”

“We said we would do the best we could. Wild magic…. It’s unusual, certainly, but cases of unplaceable wild magic like yours aren’t unheard of. We should have seen some sign of channeling by now. Some directed trickle that would have let us help you find your place in the web.”

Toby let go to fall back against the pillows, hurting, nauseated, and dizzy. His uncontrolled magical explosions, each one harder on him than the time before, had only been getting more volatile and unpredictable. “I don’t have anywhere else to go. Can’t I stay here? Until, well, until….”

“It’s too dangerous for the other students. For the staff and other guild members.” Director Whittaker took his hand again. “Tobias, you blew a hole in the guidance room’s wall today.”

Ten feet of weapons-grade Kevlar and steel—that shouldn’t have been possible. Holy crap. “Did I hurt anyone?”

“Not today. But I can’t risk lives any further. It’s reached that point where we’ve tried everything we could. When you feel up to it, read the packet. There are several wonderful hospice options nearby. Beautiful places where you’ll be cared for and made comfortable. The guild will take care of you and cover any expenses.”

Drugged to the eyeballs so I won’t do any more damage. Allowed to starve to death in the nicest possible surroundings. Toby closed his eyes, his exhausted brain banging up against walls of possibility, trying to find him a way out. All this time he’d been sure one of the guilds would find a way. They were the experts. Now? Now he was terrified. The experts were telling him he needed to accept his impending death. No, no, no, fuck that. “Sir, who’s Darius?”

“Ah, you heard that, did you?” The director sat back and pulled out a microfiber cloth to give his glasses a meticulous cleaning before he went on. “Darius Valstad caused one of the greatest magical disasters in recent memory. He nearly destroyed Pittsburgh. He pulled magic too far from his channelings, the result much like a wild magic accident. The catastrophe was narrowly averted.”

“Oh. That sounds about as bad as it gets. What happened to him?”

“He nearly died. His guild status was revoked, his teaching of any more students forbidden.”

Toby turned that over a few times, his brain fumbling and dropping concepts along the way. “So, but he’s still alive?”

“As far as I know. He lives in isolation, oh, not far from here, with the promise that he will no longer attempt anything beyond personal magic.”

“But he was once like me? And he lived?” Toby knew it was conclusion jumping, but he was desperate enough to reach for anything.

The director’s sigh was slower this time, more melancholy. “Tobias, he found his channels long ago, both his major and minor Arcana. Yes, he lives because as long as he respects the web, his magic won’t tear him apart. He had some early success with teaching unplaceables, but Pittsburgh was the ultimate result of his unorthodox methods.”

“Yes, sir. Of course.”

Director Whittaker rose with one last pat to Toby’s shoulder. “Get some rest. We’ll talk again in the morning. Please keep in mind we’re not simply turning you out onto the street. We want to be certain you’re looked after properly.”

Toby nodded, no longer trusting his voice. He didn’t turn his head to watch the director leave, staring at the white ceiling tiles instead. Ugly ceiling tiles. Places where you have to lie in bed like hospitals and infirmaries should have nice ceilings with meadows and bunnies painted on them. I don’t want to die. Oh gods… I don’t want to die.


Author’s Bio

The unlikely black sheep of an ivory tower intellectual family, Angel Martinez has managed to make her way through life reasonably unscathed. Despite a wildly misspent youth, she snagged a degree in English Lit, married once and did it right the first time, gave birth to one amazing son, and realized at some point that she could get paid for writing.

Published since 2006, Angel’s cynical heart cloaks a desperate romantic. You’ll find drama and humor given equal weight in her writing and don’t expect sad endings. Life is sad enough.

She currently lives in Delaware in a drinking town with a college problem and writes Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around gay heroes.