Series: Spellslinger #1
Author: Sebastian de Castell
Sebastian de Castell is quickly becoming a firm firm favourite. Spellslinger is a coming of age YA Fantasy that has a bit of a wild west flare to it. Sorcery, Tarot and Outlaws combine to tell a tale of disillusionment in the prescribed path, and if you can change your fate.
We follow the story of Kellen on the lead up to his 16th Birthday. in Kellen’s tribe magic rules. All children are tattooed with special metallic inks that represent the six magics of the Jan’Tep people. As their powers grow they ‘spark’ one or more of the bands and it determines the magics they can wield once they become a mage. To receive their Mage name and their place in Jan’Tep society they must pass the four mage trials before their 16th Birthday.
Kellen comes from a powerful mage family but he is yet to spark any bands, while his younger sister is one of the most powerful students in their classes. He is scared he will fail his trails and be banished to the Sha’Tep. The Sha’Tep are those with no magic that are made to serve the Jan’Tep particularly the families they used to be a part of. Kellen is both despondent and scared of his future until he meets a mysterious traveller.
Ferius Parfax is an Argosi. They are a fortunetelling race that create Tarot-like cards from the great events they witness, or great events they foretell. Her arrival sparks curiosity in Kellen, as she encourages him to be the man he wants to be and that could be anything he wants.
If there is one thing I have established in the two of Sebastian de Castell’s work I have read, is that he writes realistic, lovable and fun characters in both his YA and novels. Kellen is fantastically complex, he sulks yet strives to be more, he is confident one minute and confounded the next. He runs a gauntlet of emotions from feeling like he is failing his family to the spark of excitement when talks to the girl he likes.
However, some of the side characters are very one dimensional and stereotypical, particularly in the first half of the story. Many of the other teenagers lack the depth of Kellen. We have the chubby best friend that doesn’t believe he is as powerful as he is, the shy shrinking violet that everyone underestimates apart from Kellen, the typical school bully that believes he his the best thing ever and the overly powerful sibling that lords it over Kellen under the pretence of caring.
The interactions of the teenage characters do fall into very stereotypical subplots which is disappointing but the main plot more than makes up for it.
Ferius Parfax, on the other hand is a very interesting character. She still remains a mystery as her character is not fully explored due to her nonchalant attitude to the ongoing events. She seems to have an endless supply of decks of cards, even deadly ones, that each have their own stories. She is humorous and wise, commanding and confident, all of which balance out Kellen’s initial youthful whiny attitude.
Then we have Reichis, a flying squirrel cat, that has a sass filled and sarcastic nature reminiscent of Rocket Raccoon. He again is a balancing force bringing laughter to various situations and provides some emotional moments too (for me at least).
I genuinely enjoyed this book. It had me hooked despite starting off a little stereotypical. It quickly paints Kellen far from the YA chosen one and this really engrossed me in his story. I hoped for him, worried for him, got angry on his behalf and all in all wanted a happy outcome for him. I was also, like Kellen, intrigued by Ferius and eger to learn more about her, and Reichis just marched his little fuzzy sassy butt right into my heart (I have spoken of my love of sassy speaking animals in my Wheelhouse post) along with his whole family. The story line contained some awesome twists that i did not see coming that kept me on my toes throughout. The ending was also very satisfying, nicely wrapping up this adventure while planting the seeds for the next book, and making me want to reach for it immediately.