Spellingslinger - Book Review
Sebastien De Castell
UK Publisher: Hot Key Books
There are three things that earn you a man’s name among the Jan’Tep. The first is to demonstrate the strength to defend your family. The second is to preform the high magic that defines our people. The third is simply to reach the age of sixteen. I was a few weeks shy of my sixteenth birthday when I learned I wouldn’t be doing any of those things.
Magic is a con game.
Kellen is moments away from facing his first mage’s duel and the start of four trials that will make him a spell caster. There’s just one problem: his magic is gone. As his sixteenth birthday approaches, Kellen falls back on his cunning in a bid to avoid total disgrace. But when a daring stranger arrives in town, she challenges Kellen to take a different path. Ferius Parfax is one of the mysterious Argoisi - a traveller who lives by her wits and the three decks of cards she carries. She’s difficult and unpredictable, but she may be Kellen’s only hope…
I have fallen in love with this series, and my only regret is not reading it sooner. How was I to know that I needed a fantastical western with a talking squirrel-cat in my life? And trust me when I say you need it to! This was such a fun read and as I write this I’m already halfway through book three and am even more in love with the story.
Spellslinger follows Kellen, an aspiring mage fast approaching his sixteenth birthday and the trials that will determine his future path. But unlike his classmates, Kellen's magic just won’t spark. Now with time running out, Kellen must resort to cunning tricks to deceive his way through the trials… or risk falling into a life of servitude. But magic darker than he ever dreamed is at work, and kellen’s is about to discover, his noble people may not be so grand and noble after all…
I am in love with Kellen. He is such an unfortunate character and everything in his life goes from bad to worse. Each time I prayed and hoped for some magical miracle (it is a fantasy after all) none ever arrived. Even Kellen’s victories get shadowed by ominous news, and following Kellen from one disaster to the next was riveting. I simply could not put this book down!
At heart Kellen is just a normal guy, and the idea to have this normal guy head a fantasy story is just brilliant. Kellen is literally the underdog, written as the hero and wow does it work well. His suffering, his triumphs, they all add together to make you love Kellen more and more.
I also adored the main cast of characters - but I’m sure everyone’s favourite will be Reichi, the talking squirrel cat. He threw in a dose of much need humour - plus plenty of drama - from the moment he entered the story. Without doubt he gets the best dialog and I like how his tough thinking balances out Kellen’s timidness.
Then there is Ferius, another tough character who’s backstory I can’t wait to discover. And her choice of weapon… steel edged cards! She is a woman not to be messed with!
Sadly though I found the secondary characters somewhat lacking in, well… character. Aside from fancy names that confused me (at times I really couldn't keep straight the bad guy or his cronies) there was very little else to distinguish them. And while I enjoyed the magic system (Kellen, I think, explains it really well) I wish the world building had a bit more depth.
Otherwise the book has very little romance - although the pinch that’s in there is remarkably sweet. However this wasn't a deal breaker for me as Kellen did indeed have much bigger problems than worrying about his love life.
All in all though I really liked this story. It just sucked me in and wouldn't let go until I had turned the last page and I instantly needed to jump into book 2, then 3 with 4 soon to follow :)