The first of the Spellslinger series. I bought this book with the intention of getting it for Newts and I figured it could be good. Boy, was I surprised by how much I liked it. I know you are getting this review at the end of September instead of August, but what can I do? I read so many books to review last month. As another note, I post this while out of town (aka automated) so if you comment, expect a late response.
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
Spellslinger by Sebastien De Castell
Synopsis From The Book
A would-be mage with no magic of his own has to defeat powerful enemies with only cunning and deception in the first book of an exciting adventure fantasy series from Sebastien de Castell.
Kellen is moments away from facing his first duel and proving his worth as a spellcaster. There’s just one problem: his magic is fading.
Facing exile unless he can pass the mage trials, Kellen is willing to risk everything – even his own life – in search of a way to restore his magic. But when the enigmatic Ferius Parfax arrives in town, she challenges him to take a different path.
One of the elusive Argosi, Ferius is a traveller who lives by her wits and the cards she carries. Daring, unpredictable, and wielding magic Kellen has never seen before, she may be his only hope.
The first novel in a compelling six-book series, bursting with tricks, humor, and a whole new way to look at magic.
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
Woot! this book seems to be interesting from premise alone. I’m hoping good things but i don’t know almost anything about it. Surprise books like this are always fun to read, I think. Regardless, I read this book towards the end of the month and the goal (oh goals are so lovely and lofty) is to read this and the others today. One day. I doubt I can do it, but if I can get through three then I’ll be in a good place.
Magic and YA? Lets do this.
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
WOW. I was not expecting to get what I did for this book. It was great! I need to read the next books, but sadly I must write this review instead. How can life be so cruel?
Anyway! On to the review
Kellen is almost sixteen and without a bit of magic. When he outsmarts a bully in a trial match (a Mage must pass four trials to become a full mage in their home country), his sister calls him out for being a cheat. Kellen did cheat, mostly because Kellen convinced the bully to turn his own magic against himself. She believes him to have great power and demands that he show it, which results in him almost dying. A woman named Ferius comes and saves his life.
She is an outsider.
Kellen passes his first trial and is called to meet with the late clan prince’s wife. She sends him on a mission to find out why Ferius has come to their land upon the wake of her husband’s death. Kellen begins investigating and children around him get sick.
His once friends abandon him, and his sister kidnaps him telling him she has found a way to prove he has magic — a familiar ritual. While in the ritual, they are attacked and a mythical beast, a nekhek (squirrel cats is their common name outside the country) saves them. Kellen saves the nekhek in turn when it is captured by his father.
After saving it, Kellen finally awakens his own powers and returns home. It is here that Ferius demands a pardon for him and he realizes he was marked with the Shadowblack (a cursed magic). His father then counter-brands him and takes away most of his magics before the nekhek, named Reichis, saves him.
They go off to find Ferius who was tasked with finding Kellen’s sister who went missing. They find them in the middle of an uprising, as captives. The group escapes with Kellen’s ingenuity. Kellen is forced to fight old friends and his enemies, and Reichis’ family is massacred. Kellen brings his father’s enemy to the mage council, and goes in for his final mage test but walks out deciding to be an outsider and wanderer like Ferius instead.
What I Liked:
Kellen; Praise the boy, I adore him. I can’t wait to see how he grows and changes as he continues on his journey and path through the next few books. I will fight for this clever boy, he also deserves all the love and hugs in the world poor kid.
Kellen’s family; I love them and I hate them, which is how I think Kellen feels. His parents did love him and in some ways hated him. It is hard to see which, exactly, it was. His sister believed him to be the best regardless of the truth, because she was the best. It made her a bit intolerable at times, but endearing.
The secondary characters; They were a product of their society and with that I found them very complicated. No one is really bad. No one is really good. They all have their goals and their own agendas as people would, while being horrible people in general if you are outside their circle.
Their culture and history; I really love learning about new cultures in books and this one was simple but lovely. They are a culture that has changed their own history to suit their story and prizes magic and the magic bloodlines over anything else. When you get a culture like this it is super easy to see how it has been developed and where it can lead the story and the characters. Also, having revisionist history is always a great added bonus for me.
The use of Cleverness and questions; This book for the fights are a series of mind games. You have to ask the right question in the right way and you will rind the answer. It is a con and an illusion. The way Kellen wages battles is far more than brute force and skill, which I think will come into play later on. All his opponents but Ferius and the clan prince’s wife, Mer’esan, used brute force for the most part. The two woman asked him to question, to use his brain, and to use the cleverness to ask the right questions. This was nice and I can not wait to see how it is used further.
Magic system; Oh I want to learn so much more about this magic system. There are six classifications of magic: blood, breath, iron, sand, ember, and silk. They all have specific traits and specific mechanics and spells. I can’t wait to see what the shadowblack’s powers are, and how Kellen will derive and determine their spells. I refuse to believe the magic is all evil, after all look at what the other six types can do. It is merely different, and I can’t wait to see it developed more.
Twists; This was great. Revisionist history? Could sort of see it coming, but getting it for true was great. His uncle betraying his family, pretty obvious when you think about it, but that doesn’t mean it was bad. It was well placed. The best part, however, was Kellen’s father and mother betrayal. That was the ice on the cake, the proof of what we had seen in their society up until that point, and it had me screaming in pain with Kellen. For how dare they? Well they did, and they see what they did as the best for themselves, for their family… even if that means he’s not a part of it.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
Kellen’s magic; Can I please just get him able to use all the types? I believe him capable. I believe that after all that has happened he won’t abuse them. However, I understand, we must formalize his character and his character perspective to keep him from being reliant on the magic before giving it to him. Or maybe he will never get it all. My heart just aches for the possibility of what he could have had.
Dialogue tags; The whole book had ‘ ‘ as the dialogue tags which threw me off at first. Fair warning for anyone else.
Time Taken To Read
‘ Magic is a con game. ‘ – pg 12
“I’m a woman, kid. You probably haven’t met one before, coming as you do from this backward place, but it’s like a man only smarter and with bigger balls.” – Ferius, pg 120
‘ “What is the foe that can’t be defeated by magic?”
“The truth.” ‘ – Kellen and Mer’esan pg 164.
“History is written by the victors… but the truth has a way of revealing itself.” – Mer’esan pg 271