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First Earth: Book One in the Arch Mage Series

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A young burn victim learns that she's a powerful wizard and becomes an unlikely hero in Book One of the Arch Mage Series.

"My only use in life was to hide in a library and read dead languages to a blind man." This is how Agnes Ann Cavanaugh--the main character of Cami Murdock Jensen's YA fantasy book First Earth--views herself. Agnes is a talented 16-year-old, recruited by Dr. James R. Buchanan to translate ancient texts as a summer intern at Boston University, but she's also a self-critical burn victim. Agnes was injured in a fire as a child, and her father died protecting her. She carries this burden as scars on her face that, mysteriously, never quite seem to heal. But, of course, Agnes is much more than she appears.


When Dr. Buchanan asks Agnes to read a tablet from the ancient Jamdat Nasrian civilization, everything goes haywire. A woman, seemingly possessed by a spirit, almost kills Agnes, but an old man appears and whisks her away just in time. Turns out, the tablet is actually an Aether Stone--an object that opens up portals, called Jent Paths, between worlds. The old man is a young wizard in disguise--Temnon, the Arch Mage of First Earth. Earth, as we know it, is Second Earth--only one of many. And Agnes is a formidable wizard.


Before she knows it, Agnes is sucked into the middle of an interplanetary magical war. The commanding King Odric's wayward daughter Nemantia has been draining the magic from wizards, leaving only ashes behind and increasing her own power. With the fate of all the Earths on the line, Agnes must harness her own magical abilities and use them to uncover the truth about Nemantia's betrayal. Along the way, she encounters a wonderfully imaginative cast of characters, including a telepathic dragon of knowledge named Dominath, and Grimmal--a snarky shape-shifting cat called a sciftan.


Although Jensen's novel does have some similarities to The Golden Compass, the book is overall a wildly creative, inspiring tale about hardship and personal acceptance. Agnes dislikes herself and her scars, and she experiences chronic nerve pain. While she realizes early on that being connected with magic soothes her illness, Agnes struggles to understand her powers. It's only when she truly learns to love herself that things become clear. This is a beautiful uplifting message about the power of self-discovery, and an important lesson for young readers to learn. For this reason, I'd pitch this book at middle grade readers: Agnes is the perfect hero for a complicated, difficult age.

Reviewed by

Co-Founder of The Haint
Former:
Batavia Public Library Tech/Reference Assistant
Literary Agent Assistant at Barbara Braun Associates, Inc.
Personal Assistant to Marilyn Stasio at the NYTBR
Book Review Editor for KGB Bar Lit Mag
Business Manager of Columbia Journal
MFA in Fiction, Columbia U

I Am Chased by the Sun

About the author

Cami has always enjoyed a good story, writing youth theater musicals in her teens, directing, and composing. Some stories are too big for the stage, so she has written multiple fantasy stories for young adult and teen readers. view profile

Published on June 27, 2019

Published by

90000 words

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Reviewed by