Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell: A book review

Spellslinger is the first in a series of books about a young mage called Kellan, Spellslinger is a fun and refreshing take of the fantasy genre of wizards and mages.

Sebastien de Castell has been able to create an unusual and engaging universe to play in with a unique take on how magic works. Magical ability is linked to hereditary and its strength based on proximity to oasis and a mages control of a series of tattooed bands on their arms.

Like many books the protagonist is a young boy on the verge of adolescence and looks at Kellans trouble as he tries to find his place in a Magiocracy based society in a powerful family when he himself is failing as a mage. The book is written as a Young Adult novel but this doesn’t dilute the tension and action.

De Castell’s world is rich and deep with hints of a wider world to be explored. His characterisations are excellent and whilst some of the tropes such as the evil mage and bully boy rivals are common to so many novels they do fit the narrative. It is easy to see Kellan as an anti-hero, he teeters on the brink of being a trickster and liar with good intentions  however Kellan is more complex and nuanced than that. We hear his internal dialogue and in all cases he is trying to do the best with a bad hand.

The author isn’t afraid to set Kellan up with a plan and have it fall into tatters, he allows Kellan to fail in ways many writers cannot do to their creations, this makes his character development more interesting and action sequences genuinely exciting.

De Castell makes good use of a supporting cast, the mysterious outside, the strange squirrel-cat and a range of friends and allies. His best friend was poorly used in that we saw little of their dynamic early in the book and so it was hard to feel the impact as that relationship shifted in second half of the book.

On an ethical note the book does much to explore the vices of pride, arrogance and superiority and delves into prejudice and social mobility without becoming preachy, its a backdrop and motivator rather than a focus.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and it kept me hooked through out.  I look forward to ploughing through the following 4 books with another due in 2019.


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