“Rebel Mage Charlie” is the seventh book in Scott Baron’s wonderfully written “The Dragon Mage” series. What started off as a humors and light-hearted science fiction space adventure has become a well-crafted story enjoyable by almost anyone. In this audiobook, we have more magic, mechs, and mayhem. I could easily see this series becoming a TV mini-series with its unique blending of technology and magic along with a detailed story. Add to this, crisp and professional narration by Gary Bennett, for the audiobook edition, and you have a combination that simply works; and has from the first audiobook. It appears from Audible that there are only two remaining books in the series, so what is next for Charlie and his party? You will want to complete the story if you have come this far already, so picking up the remaining books is a given. If you have been on the fence whether to start this series or not, I would recommend you give the first few books a try as I think you will be surprised just how much the series grows on you.
The author’s ability to seamlessly blend in many of the characters from another series of books he produced (The Clockwork Chimera) and even pull a few in from earlier books in this series makes one feel like they are getting more than they bargained for. As the story progresses, we begin to understand the level of activity, action, and animosity as things ramp up rather quickly. The team continues to not only battle for their lives, but the lives of Earth many other worlds as well. The previously opened portal becomes a focal point and the only means of getting between systems. Yet, it is a very dangerous place to be when the fighting begins to heat up. Some of the more powerful characters begin to feel the strain on their magic and at times we start to see a lack confidence that they never will succeed at their goal. The audiobook has a fair amount of tension as the war continues to build. However, this pressure is frequently released by well-placed humor, pokes, and zings.
Here we begin to see just how powerful some of the magic user characters become along with the ever need for bigger and better technology. The AIs continue their growth at an expositional rate. I enjoyed the need for Earth-based technology and humans having to explain how such things function without the power of magic. There is plenty of action and adventure, and this is all taking place across multiple planet systems. This story has become massive and expansive, and at times can even be a bit difficult keeping track of what is happening where. It does not take long to get back on track, but that tells you just how big of a space adventure this story encompasses. Not only does the vastness of space feel bigger, but the level of deception to get one’s way is higher as well. We almost see the use of not only magic and technology to reach one’s goals but psychology as a weapon as well.
This audiobook focused more on Charlie’s friends and co-workers than on Charlie himself. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of Charlie in this one, so do not worry. We see many old friends coming back into the picture along with some of the magical waters which the party discovered back in the first book of the series. It was enjoyable to learn some additional background on Bob and his people in this book as well as Hunnza and her people. Those who have seen, or experienced war, know that there is often no mercy shown, and here we learn just how unforgiving some can be when the survival instinct kicks in. War also has the ability to drive dividers even between friends and co-workers. We see some of the alliances and friendships become fragile as this story progresses and the team needs to maintain unity if they are going to succeed.
Let me turn to my thoughts on the audiobook’s narration. With seven audiobooks down in this series alone, Gary Bennett continues to be consistent and professional all the way though. The life he has spoken into the characters remains the same, and I like that in a long series. I’m not sure how a narrator keeps track of the many voices, but Mr. Bennett seems to have this down. This does not mean that the audio is perfect, for those who require perfection. The audio has a few small plugs where a word or two is inserted, but this is not frequent or disruptive. Apart from this, I do not recall any other audio artifacts while listening. I have enjoyed and reviewed a few other books by this narrator also.
For parents and younger listeners, this book (as with the others in the series) does contain a fair amount of profanity. There are also a few scenes within a bar along with a few innuendos and references to prostitution. If any of these easily offend you, I would not recommend you start this series.
In summary, this book continues the journey Charlie began six books previous. He and his team of helpers have grown vastly from the days he was scared to travel in a spaceship. He also possesses much more than his engineering and technological knowledge; He has grown into a magic user that most would not think to confront. The narration is solid and clear. I like that the same narrator has produced all the audiobook up to this point. Even with things becoming more complex, there is still a balance of action and some down time. A great series I would recommend to anyone who enjoys good contemporary science fiction.