How do you survive a mage’s duel without magic? Kellen’s about to risk everything: His family, his home, even his own life…
When you’re a Jan’Tep initiate approaching your sixteenth birthday, you’d better be ready to prove your worth as a mage. Either that or have a miracle on the way. And Kellen isn’t counting on either. He knows he’ll need a few tricks up his sleeve to avoid disgracing his family and becoming a Sha’Tep servant. So when a sassy, straight-talking traveller arrives in town, Kellen is all ears. Ferius Parfax is jaded but worldly, an exile who lives by her wits and the three decks of cards she carries. She can’t teach him to spark his bands and access the seven magics, but with the hand that Kellen’s been dealt, he knows he needs all the help he can get… A rich, compelling and laugh-out-loud new series for all teen, YA, adult and fantasy readers. Perfect for fans of The Dark Tower, Firefly, Hunger Games and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Thanks to Allen & Unwin for providing a review copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Trigger warning: animal cruelty
Spellslinger is the first book in a new YA series by Sebastien de Castell. This novel follows 15 year old, Kellen, who is a boy without magic, living in a world full of magic. Even though Kellen is the son of a powerful Lord Magus, he shows no sign of having any magical abilities and is at risk of becoming a Sha’Tep and serving the powerful and magical Jan’Teps for the rest of his life. When a strange lady, Ferius, arrives in town, Kellen begins to learn that there are alternative ways to be the hero that he’s always wanted to be.
That was kind of a vague synopsis of the novel but I’m having a really hard time recalling what actually happened or what the book was about. The plot was a little bit messy and confusing and seemed to jump around quite a bit. I just wanted a little bit more flow from it. I couldn’t really engage with the story and it took me a really long time to finish what was actually a really fast-paced book. I did like the magic system for the most part but I found bits of it to be confusing and underdeveloped. There were so many different aspects and I couldn’t really grasp the rules of the magic system because it seemed to be kind of limitless. I appreciate that the author wanted to put in a lot of plot and action but for a fantasy series… I wish he’d spent a little bit more time setting up the world and magic system at the start. The world building was kind of lacking and I didn’t really get a good sense of where they were or what the culture of the world was… besides the part where all the female characters were subservient and submissive.
Having said that, I did like Kellen’s character a lot and I think this redeemed the book for me. He was sassy and funny, and I found him to be strangely relatable. I most appreciated that he wasn’t the Chosen One (in fact, he’s kind of the opposite) and it was really easy to connect with him because he was kind of completely ordinary. I really enjoyed his character development throughout the book and the way that he found himself and who he wanted to be by the end of the novel. But I can’t say that I liked the rest of the characters as much. Ferius was an okay character for me. She was extremely enigmatic and I didn’t know what her motivations were by the end of the novel. I loved that she was there for Kellen and supported him but I don’t really know how I feel about her. I also liked Reichis, Kellen’s squirrel cat friend (or business partner, as he calls himself), and I can’t wait to see more of him in the upcoming books. I do have to mention though that there is some animal cruelty in this book and there was one particular scene that had me shuddering in horror.
The rest of the characters, I found extremely unmemorable and bland. And it also didn’t really help that it was difficult to remember their names. Some characters were from the same family and had really similar names that were easily confusable. And on top of that, a lot of the characters actually changed their names during the book, once they’d reached mage status. I also wasn’t a huge fan of any of the other characters and thought that they were either pure evil or just terrible, terrible friends. I didn’t care about any of them and wasn’t really that invested in their stories or what was happening to them.
All in all, I don’t think Spellslinger was for me. I liked the action in the novel and Kellen’s character a lot but I couldn’t latch on to anything else. I wasn’t able to get into the world or the magic system so the book ended up being a little bit of a drag for me.