The opening fiction is weird, sounding more like the rambling of a deranged mind than a story, but persevere and it will begin to make sense (especially once you realise part of it is the protagonist's own account of his Awakening... or is it?) provided you can cope with the background that is not only a crumpled paper effect but with additional scribbles that make it hard to read. The underlying theme is, I think, just how easy it is for an Awakened mage to fall into the trap of misuing his powers for what seems to be the best of reasons.
The Introduction continues with the concept that once you have Awakened, nothing is ever quite the same. To start with, the magical orders almost literally fight over you. In this book we learn about the Guardians of the Veil, what they have to offer and some of the secrets there are to be discovered. For it's all about secrets with these guys, some say they are the James Bonds of the Awakened world. They see their role as the protectors of matters supernal, guardians of magic itself... and to do that, they need to act like covert agents. It's an interesting - and potentially appealing - point of view. Secerts within secrets, being the arbiter of right and wrong... being a Guardian demands that special arrogance that states that you and you alone know what ought to be done.
Chapter 1: From the Reign of Atlantis launches into early history telling how from the very beginning some mages realised that there was a need to police magical activity and so took that duty upon themselves. This is not 'policing by consent', not something all mages see a need for or agree to, it's a self-appointed guardianship. The primary mission remains the same, to defend magic and mages from the unAwakened, the monsters - and themselves.
Next, Chapter 2: Masque and Veil looks at the core tenets of this order - ones which they do not reveal to outsiders, they are secrecy personified, nothing gets out. Even the various offices and customs of the order are rarely talked about with outsiders... so relish the chance to read about them and should you not be a Guardian of the Veil, don't let on that you have read them!
Chapter 3: Of Secrets and Spies takes things further, explores the process of initiation into the order and what life is like once accepted. It is no easy task to join the Guardians, they require dedication, the willingness to kill for them, a prepardness to die for them... as it is said, the first challenge for a would-be spy is to get the agency of his choice to hire him!
Then Chapter 4: Factions and Legacies demonstrates that, like many an intelligence agency, the order is riven with cliques and factions, petty jealosies and empire-building, no matter how uniform and monolithic they may appear to outsiders. Each Guardian mage has his own individual approach to the order's common purpose, and this is made manifest in the people with whom they associate and the legacies they pass on.
Chapter 5: Magic contains a collection of new spells and equipment, as well as training and techniques used by the order in its self-appointed task. Finally, an appendix provides fully-statted details of allies and antagonists that the Guardians might encounter, or indeed encompass...
Mages wishing to join the order become the Internal Affairs Division of the Awakened world. Perhaps your mages fancy that... or perhaps you reckon that they have attracted the attention of the Guardians (never a good thing) and will have to deal with whatever the order decides to throw at them. Plenty of potential here, plenty of ideas spawn even as you read these pages.
Return to Guardians of the Veil page.
Reviewed: 24 August 2016