Author: Sebastien de Castell
Series: Spellslinger #1
Genre: YA Fantasy
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…
The first in a rich and compelling fantasy series bursting with tricks, traps and a devious talking squirrel cat. Perfect for fans of THE DARK TOWER, FIREFLY, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, TERRY PRATCHETT, BEN AARONOVITCH and JIM BUTCHER.
Source: ARC from Hot Key Books via Amazon Vine
Fast, fun and frustrating, I spent most of this book waiting for something to explode (possibly Kellen) and take out everyone he knew. Because all of them were awful – his family, his fellow students, his so-called friends. The Jan’Tep (magic-users) are power-hungry, abusive jerks without any redeeming features whatsoever, only the hopes of Kellen that they might actually be decent deep down.
But this book is about Kellen’s coming of age – in more ways than one – and he swiftly learns that everyone is hiding something, and the world he knows isn’t just inherently unfair (turning non-magic users into slaves within their own family), but plain nasty too.
Luckily, I liked Kellen. True, he probably wouldn’t have been so clever and questioning if his magic worked like everyone else’s, but since it doesn’t and he’s desperate not to lose his status, he starts questioning the things he knows and shows compassion for other outcasts. Not least Ferius Parfax, who is mysterious and amusing and smart and the one decent human besides Kellen. Which isn’t a high bar to get over, and she definitely has her own agenda, but she also provides a much-needed alternative to the Jan’Tep cruelty.
Then there are the squirrel cats. Vicious and trash talking and business-savvy. Loved them. They added not just extra humour, but a different view for Kellen to experience, plus support in times of trouble.
Of which there are many. This book doesn’t stint on putting Kellen through the wringer. His people are awful, his situation is perilous and his family are just… I have no words. The plot wriggles about a bit, twisting here and there as Kellen’s sixteenth birthday approaches, but mostly it’s about magic and perception and Kellen growing up fast.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely be looking out for more from this series. In the meantime I might just have to explore what else this author has to offer.
Spellslinger is Out Now.
Visit Sebastien de Castell for more details.