Spellslinger by Sebastian De Castell
Publication Date: May 4th, 2017
There are three things that earn you a man’s name among the Jan’Tep. The first is to demonstrate the strength to defend your family. The second is to prove you can perform the high magic that defines our people. The third is simply to reach the age of sixteen. I was a few weeks shy of my birthday when I learned that I wouldn’t be doing any of those things.
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...
Ok, so to preface, I just want to say that my thoughts on this book are very much subjective to ME. Going into this book, I was anticipating an adventure coming-of-age story full of magic and maybe a hint of romance. I was definitely not expecting a story about a kid who gets bullied at magic school (I use the term loosely) while trying to discover secrets from an apparent spy and dealing with his magical impotence.
This story was leaning slightly into the ‘con game’ aspect of the synopsis (for like, the first chapter) which was interesting but it should have been a much larger focus and not just alluded to with Kellen’s abilities and random throwing cards that are also to be used to gamble but not… Honestly, I don’t really know how to explain this book.
Good execution of this type of story hinges on politics and magic but I don’t feel as though either were give their due. The politics were almost non-existent (which is surprising when the main plot focuses on a spy) and the magic is fairly convoluted. You’re born with it but it’s verbal and somatic, you have tattoos for each of the strands of magic, those tattoos look cooler when you have mastered that particular strand but also your magic can fade by the time you’re 16, not all of the strands get mastered much of the time and there’s still a chance that you can be a "special" magic-user if you aren’t a master of any… I can continue to spiral but I will stop there.
I also cannot quite pin-point what type of world this is either. Is it it’s own thing? Is it some type of far off future? Is there a mix? Some of the dialog kind of fits in a purely fantasy setting but almost everything that comes out of Ferius’s mouth sound as though she could be from our non-magical modern day. Also, Ferius needs to STOP ending every sentence with ‘kid’ when addressing Kellen. We get it, you’re older than him, this isn’t a romantic relationship. Just stop already. I have also noticed a lot of readers have mentioned the witty/humorous dialog and I really don’t see it. Everything the characters say is just so… basic and unimaginative.
The way that the book is split up is based on the different tasks which is interesting but it wasn’t done to it’s full potential. It could have read the same way without being divided. I liked that each section opened up with something that relates to the task but until the end, when another character neatly wraps up how what Kellen did/didn’t do relates back to the matching task, it really doesn’t matter.
Now, when I started off, I said that my thoughts are subjective to me and while that is true for everything, I mean it a bit different here. I rated Spellslinger a 1 Star on Goodreads and there are many reasons for this: the synopsis was not accurate to the content, the book was shelved in the adult fantasy section, the writing was over simplistic and the story was not well-developed. My 1 Star rating could have easily been higher if this book was marketed better. I think this is more a story for pre-teens taking into consideration everything I mentioned before. It may be a great book for someone who is young and starting out in the fantasy genre but I expected a lot more.
It seems as though the books will follow Kellen as he gets older but based on the writing and my lack of enjoyment in the plot, I can’t stick around to see why this book was shelved in adult fantasy.