Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell

The Blurb On The Back:

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.

The first in a rich and compelling fantasy series bursting with tricks, traps and a devious talking squirrel cat.

You can order SPELLSINGER by Sebastien de Castell from Amazon USAAmazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

16-year-old Kellen is the eldest son of Ke’heops, one of the Jan’Tep’s most powerful Lord Magus.  Having studied every aspect of spellcasting, he’s about to start the four trials that he needs to pass to be a spellcaster.  The only problem is that he can’t do magic and has been unable to spark any of the 6 tattooed bands on his arm that indicates he has mastered a body of magic (breath, ember, sand, iron, blood and silk).  Failure means becoming a Sha’Tep (or servant) like his uncle – doomed to be second-class citizen.

But Kellen still has his brain and his cunning and is determined to trick his way through the trials until his 13-year-old sister, Shalla, almost kills him in a mistaken effort to help.  His life is saved by Ferius, a mysterious Daroman woman fond of smoking, drinking and card tricks who takes an interest in him.  She and a grumpy squirrel cat called Reichis challenge his perceptions of his people, his future and everything he believed about himself …

Sebastien de Castell’s YA fantasy novel (the first in a trilogy) is an imaginative and entertaining read with a great central trio of characters and a lot of potential and while some of the plot twists were obvious, the world building’s a little heavy-handed and the romance element didn’t convince (although Nephenia is well drawn) there’s plenty here to hold the interest and I look forward to book 2.

Kellen is an interesting character – resourceful, cunning but also kind hearted and I thought that the relationship with his parents was interesting with his reaction to a key event being believable although a big revelation was telegraphed too early for me.  Ferius is likewise a good foil – mysterious and wisecracking but not infallible – I enjoyed how she helps Kellen to see the world around him for what it is while Reichis has some great lines, a homicidal tendency and a flexible relationship with the truth.  There’s a lot of world building here and at times it got a little too expositional for me although it does offer set-up for the next book and I wished we’d been shown more of Kellen’s friendship with Nephenia and Panahsi because it would have given some events more punch.  That said there was plenty to enjoy here and I look forward to reading the sequel and discovering what Kellen does next.

SPELLSLINGER was released in the United Kingdom on 4th May 2017.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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