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Title: Spellslinger (#1)
Author: Sebastien de Castell
Published: 4th of May 2017 — Hot Key Books
Format: Hardback — 400 pages
Hello Hello! How are you?
Today I’m back on the blog with another review of a book I’ve been buddy reading with Candyce from The Book Dutchesses and that I loved: Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell.
I had seen this book and this series on Book Twitter and Bookstagram for so many years and had been recommended by a lot of people, and I finally got around to reading it thanks to Fiona from Fi’s Bibliofiles gifting it to me for Christmas, thank you so so much Fiona!
Now without further ado, let’s get into this review.
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 prove you can perform 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 birthday when I learned that 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 spellcaster. 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 Argosi – 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…
Trigger warnings: death, people hurting each other through magic, graphic scenes of violence, people getting beaten up, attempted murder, sickness, on-page scenes with animals getting killed, murder, cons, general violence and fight scenes, mention of genocides, manipulation.
Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell is the first book in a six-book series also called Spellslinger. This is a YA fantasy series that I’ve wanted to read for years, and I’m so glad I finally got around to reading it with Candyce, because it was a really good book!
“A people bound together by magic, and yet so often we seek to unleash the worst of that magic upon each other.”
This book is set in an imaginary world in which a few different tribes or peoples live. I don’t remember if there was a name for the place, but the “tribe” we follow are the Jan’Tep and the tribe to which our main character Kellen of the house of Ke’Heops belongs.
I have to say that this was a really intriguing way to start off the book as I’ve read a lot of fantasy, but this one felt different for some reason, maybe because we only get to meet one of the “tribes” in this book despite multiple mentions of the Argosi, the Mahdek and others.
What I liked the most about this setting and this world is that it feels so rich and so varied, I’m sure that we are going to meet a lot more people from different tribes or backgrounds in the next books and I’m excited for that. I think this first book shows the potential of the world in which it is set and I for one cannot wait to read more about it and discover more of it.
I’m not going to go into too much detail as I usually do, because let’s face it, I only really have three characters to talk about: Kellen, Ferius Parfait and Reichis. There are loads of other characters who were also important, but my heart is stuck on these ones, haha!
I also forgot to mention that as part of the Jan’Tep people, who do have magic and the ability to wield different types of magic that they specialise in, there are also the Sha’Tep. These are a kind of caste of this tribe because they don’t have magic, they didn’t either “spark the bands” that give them the magic, or let them tap into it, or they didn’t pass their mages tests to become mages. Anyway, these people are basically slaves to the Jan’Tep, even members of their own family. This is the only thing I didn’t like about this book, not making it bad but it made me angry that the Sha’Tep were treated so badly by the Jan’Tep just because they weren’t like them.
Coming back to my favourite characters though! I loved Kellen from the very first page. To start with, he is a bit naive and hot-headed (he still is a bit hot-headed at the end), but he is also a trickster and is struggling to wield magic as we meet him. He knows he can rely on his cunning to get him out of scrapes, but that won’t win his mage trials or his mage name. I instantly liked him as a character and really liked to see how he evolved in the story and how he basically made a name for himself despite being shunned even by his own family. He is a really great character and I can’t wait to see the adventures he goes on next.
I also really loved Ferius Parfax who is introduced to us as an Argosi wanderer, but who ends up being so much more than Kellen could have expected. I love her humour and her cutting remarks, how unique she is and how she doesn’t take anyones’ shit. She is a really strong and attention-drawing character, but for all the right reasons. There is actually a duology about her, that Candyce and I are going to read right afterwards, and I’m really looking forward to finding out more about her. What I like the most about her is that she stuck by Kellen and tried to show him the way, brought him out of his shell, and I think gave him the incentive to fight for himself. There is definitely a lot more to her than meets the eye.
And I also adored Reichis as a character, but don’t want to say too much unless I give away some spoilers. He is a squirrel cat (the thing pictured on Kellen’s shoulder on the cover), and he is so funny but also a bit arrogant, and very determined to do what he wants. I love his massive character and I think there are still great things to learn about him.
The main thing I really liked about this book was the magic system. It is so unique and I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like it. The Jan’Tep draw magic from an oasis at the centre of their city, they have bands tattooed onto their arms from precious metals, that they have to spark to be able to tap into the magic supply. Every mage is different and casts different kinds of spells, from the six different magics: silk, sand, blood, breath, iron and ember. There is also a seventh form of magic, but I’ll let you discover that yourself! When the mages cast a spell, they use a mix of visualisation, somatic shapes and words. I thought it was fascinating, but I have a feeling that there will be a lot more magic and very different kinds of magic in the next books, especially with Ferius’s cards that really intrigue me, and Kellen’s unique form of magic.
This is both a very plot-driven and character-driven book. The main plot is basically the fact that Kellen is losing his magic and needs to find it somehow to pass his mage’s trials to become a “real” mage. But there are also subplots and lots of twists and turns throughout this book. I was never bored reading it and also thought that despite how complex and rich this world was, I found it very easy to read and thought it flowed very nicely. The writing style was very enjoyable to read and I have a feeling that it’ll get even better throughout the series. I also found a few very beautiful quotes, two of which I’ve included in this post!
I was so engaged in this book and having such fun going along for the ride that I never expected those last 100 pages that went by so fast and had lots of reveals and twisty elements to the plot. I didn’t see it coming and I like when that happens, because I feel like we watch the characters realise these things first, and not the reader work things out before the character! So I think the author did a great job of dropping little clues along the way, but also waiting until the end to drop the bombshells. The last 100 pages went by so fast, the pace really picked up and it was SO enjoyable to see everything unfold.
“We are such a small people”, I thought. “For all our magic, we’re scared, paranoid little children trying to protect ourselves from the bullies of the world by becoming bigger bullies ourselves.”
FINAL THOUGHTS AND RATING
Overall, I very much enjoyed this book, which is a great start to a series I’m definitely going to continue reading with Candyce.
I gave Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell 4.5 stars. I thoroughly enjoyed it for all the reasons stated above and I’m excited to see what happens next and what these characters will get up to.
If you love YA fantasy with a complex setting and magic system, flawed characters that you can really root for, lots of action and lots of twists, then I highly recommend this book. I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I did!!
Atmosphere – 7
Start – 8
Pacing – 8.5
Ending – 8
Characters – 8.5
Theme – 7
Style – 8
Total = 55
That’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed reading this post!
See you soon, stay safe,