Publisher: Hot Key Books
Author: Sebastien de Castell
Released: May 4th 2017
Received: Goodreads Giveaways
Warnings: Animal death, slavery-like situations
I won a copy of Spellslinger through the Goodreads Giveaways program. There was no obligation for me to leave a review, but I am choosing to do so.
Spellslinger is the first in a series of the same name by Sebastien de Castell. I haven’t actually read any of his other works, but just based on his listings on Goodreads it seems like I would have plenty to read should I decide to go through his backlog.
Side note: There are two different covers for this book, and I honestly don’t know which one I love more. The original is based off of a classic card, and looks absolutely fantastic. You can still see some of the card elements in the newer design, but they’re more subtle – looking more like a card from a tarot deck than a playing card. I do love the colors used though, so that’s a huge bonus in my book.
Warnings first: There are a lot of animal deaths in this novel. About ninety percent of them you can see coming though, so if they upset you (like they do me) you can easily skip them or gloss over them. Honestly once you see the situation set up you can probably guess what happens to each of them. There’s also a situation painfully similar to slavery, with the non-magical users being considered lesser and unworthy, and therefore forced to work for mage families or go down into the mines. They’re also not allowed to have children, and need permission to marry. It’s painful to see happening.
Spellslinger is a tale similar to that we’ve seen and heard before, but with a few twists. It’s a coming of age story, but it isn’t. It’s a normal boy living in a magical world, but it’s not. It’s the tale of a boy trying to make his family proud, but it isn’t. In short it’s a series of contradictions and conundrums, all of which fit the character and the plot oddly well.
Kellen is the son of two of the most powerful mages in his village. The problem is that Kellen himself doesn’t seem to have much magic. Where many would be crushed by this; having to live in a magical world without magic themselves, Kellen is determined to make it work for him.
You see, Kellen is actually a brilliant young man. While he can’t work magic like the others, the fact remains that he still understands how it all works, and being smarter than his peers he can frequently find ways to spin it in his favor. Sure, in a fair fight it wouldn’t help him, or in a fight for his life, come to think of it. But it’d get him through the challenges, and that’d be enough for him, for so many reasons.
I know, you’ve probably seen the ‘boy can’t use magic like everyone’ else plot before, it’s been done. That was my first thought too. But it honestly is different than the others. Where most of those plots end with the kid becoming incredibly powerful by the end of the story that doesn’t really end up being the case here. That’s not to say that Kellen doesn’t get power – I would never so casually spoil something like that for you. It’s more that Kellen realized the real importance, or lack thereof, of it all. By the end Kellen gains true perspective of the world, and it was really wonderful watching that transition for him.
There are a lot of side characters in this novel, with some being more important than other. Additionally there are plenty of enemies for Kellen; with varying degrees of threat and motivation. It all mixes together into a complex story that helps to obfuscate the truth of what is actually happening to the village.
I have to say that Spellslinger is a shocking emotional read. There were multiple times that I felt myself angry for Kellen’s sake; wanting to scream at the others who constantly kicked him down for things that were out of his control. What surprised me most though, was that I actually cried for Kellen. There were a couple of scenes in particular where Kellen’s situation really moved me emotionally. I had to stop and wipe my eyes a few times during those scenes.
In a way I’m actually happy that I’ve just discovered this series, because that means that I have the rest of the series ahead of me – no waiting required. I do think I’ll give myself some time to emotionally recover before I move on though. Still, I’m curious about Kellen and his journey.