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The Bridge to Magic is the first book in the Sundered Web series by Alex Thornbury. It is a young adult fantasy with a feisty female protagonist. Young Adult fantasy is my favorite genre, so the book appealed to me as its target audience.
Like many fantasy books set in an alternative world, the book begins with a bit of history. All of existence is divided into three realms, held together by a great web. The celestial realm is ruled by the gods, the ethereal realm by the guardians of magic, and the earthly realm, by an ancient dynasty of arrogant kings. Long ago the kings waged a war against magic. As a result, the connection between those realms was sundered and the guardians of magic were banished to the deadlands. The only thing connecting the world of men to the world of magic is a dark and frightening bridge across an abyss. No one who crosses the bridge ever returns. Meanwhile, the Blight, which kills everything in its path, continues to spread over the earthly realm in search of magic and mages. Terren, the last remaining city, is all that is left of the earthly realm. Soon, the Blight will consume it too. Magic is blamed for the Blight. Mages are hunted and thrown into the abyss in an effort to eliminate all traces of magic from the city.
Elika, the main character, is an orphan trying to survive the dangers of Terren’s streets. Her parents took the Bridge when she was a baby, leaving her alone. She hates the bridge, and the prospect of crossing it is her greatest fear. She clings to the hope that the Blight will stop if all the mages are gone and Terren is free of magic.
When, in an act of anger, Elika stabs the bridge, her action sets off an unexpected series of events. What Elika knew about her past, and about magic, comes into question as Elika discovers the hidden secrets of her birth. Elika is accused of being a mage and must decide where her loyalties lie. She must either destroy the magic inside her or face her greatest fear: the Bridge to Magic.
I thought the premise was fascinating. The terrible choice that the citizens of Terren faced was compelling. I was immediately drawn into the horrors of facing death on one side, and a frightening, unknown abyss on the other. The secondary characters were real and relatable. They acted and responded in ways that were authentic given the situation. The setting of Terren was well-developed, as was the magic system.
While the premise, setting, and magic system drew me in, what kept me reading was Elika’s dilemma. She is strong, stubborn, and feisty, which I liked. I really enjoyed seeing how her struggle with her magic refined her and developed her character further. As she uncovers more of her past, she must question everything she has been told, and–especially–her own beliefs, and she grows as a result. I liked that she was not a one-dimensional heroine on a straight trajectory toward the good. Elika’s flaws play against her growth the entire time, and the reader isn’t sure which will win out.
The story maintains its tension throughout, as the encroaching Blight arrives in Terren, and Elika must come to grips with what she learns as she tries to save the last remnants of humanity. There are enough revelations and plot turns to keep the reader off balance. The tension continues to mount until the very end when Elika makes her choice. I truly didn’t know what was going to happen, or what Elika would ultimately do, until the very end, and it kept me turning the page.
I usually prefer fantasy that is less dark, but The Bridge to Magic is an exception. I enjoyed the book. It should appeal to its young adult audience, and to adults who enjoy the fantasy genre. I look forward to reading the second book in the series.