Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell ~Goodreads~
Published by Hot Key Books 2017
Hardback edition 416 pages ~Book Depository~
Thank you to Hot Key Books for sending me this book for an honest review.
Kellen’s dreams of becoming a powerful mage like his father are shattered after a failed magical duel results in the complete loss of his abilities. When other young mages begin to suffer the same fate, Kellen is accused of unleashing a magical curse on his own clan and is forced to flee with the help of a mysterious foreign woman who may in fact be a spy in service to an enemy country. Unsure of who to trust, Kellen struggles to learn how to survive in a dangerous world without his magic even as he seeks out the true source of the curse. But when Kellen uncovers a conspiracy hatched by members of his own clan seeking to take power, he races back to his city in a desperate bid to outwit the mages arrayed against him before they can destroy his family.
We meet our protagonist Kellen as he battles his classmate in a magical duel, knowing that he won’t win. However he does manage to fight but, this facade is soon uncovered by his younger sister who so happens to be able to conjure magic. From here onwards we see Kellen struggle to prove himself as a mage, a Jan’Tep like his father. Kellen tries hard to make his magic return so he can be just like his classmates, however as he explores magic around him he ends up delving into historic secrets about his people. Secrets that could risk everything for him and his people. Kellen is an unlikely hero who comes of age, realising he is not who he thought he was and he doesn’t want to be who he had aspired to be. He accepts who he really is and this helps his development as a character who seems weak and naive, to someone who has become strong and gains self-belief. I wasn’t sure I would warm to Kellen’s character but I’m very glad that I did.
Spellslinger has great stereotypical fantasy elements and enticing plot twists.
I loved Reichis, a companion to Kellen an animal companion or rather a “business partner” as he prefers who happens to be a badass squirrel cat (yes you heard me) who has been the enemy of Kellen’s people since the beginning. Reichis is witty, feisty, intelligent, and just an overall a sassy cat- squirrel cat who was a really great addition to this story.
We then have Ferius Parfax, a wandering magic-less traveler who carries around decks of cards with her demonstrating endless tricks and illusions. Ferius tries to teach Kellen that there is more power than magic, and that it can be found in places other than simply conventional spells. I imagine Ferius as quirky young woman, who just reeks of suspicion and mystery. I warmed to her character quickly, and I was happy to see that she wasn’t just another character but actually someone with relevance to the plot- so yay! I definitely feel a hint of romance between herself and Kellen…but maybe that’s just me but she seemed to bring out a new side to Kellen that brought him out of his shell. She’s just an overall cool character of the book.
At the moment there isn’t a lot of worldbuilding in this first book of the series, so I’m hoping and expecting the next installment to provide me with more details of the world surrounding Kellen and the other mages. While we are presented with history and facts about the people, the background was quite sparse. Other things that intrigued me that I would like to learn more about is the magic system, the seven pillars of magic- silk, blood, iron, breath, ember, sand, and the forbidden type- shadow. Each mage gets tattooed bands around their arm that they aim to break so they can cast spells, however its not clear as to how they break these bands. I’m excited to see how (if) Sebastien cures my curiosity!
Overall this is a fast-paced, wonderfully written book that I didn’t want to put down, and its been a while since I’ve picked up a magic book that has been able to do this. It sounds strange but I liked having a protagonist that was genuinely rubbish at something, rather than pretending they’re not. He was awful, and I liked that he was because it just shows we can’t all be good at everything and sometimes its being able to do something different from others that makes us who we are.
I’m excited to see what adventure Kellen, Reichis and Ferius have and what dangers they face. Thank you Sebastien for writing a book that has made me love magic again.