This is the first instalment of a new series I am trialing called My Thoughts while Re-reading! I really enjoy re-reading I find it helps break the dreaded reading slumps and I always seem to find something new I never noticed before. I like to annotate books when I re-read them noting down all those thoughts and feelings that spring to mind as I spend time in that story again. Therefore, in this series of Blog posts I hope to share a few of those thoughts with you. If you have read the book please feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments. I would love to spark discussion on the books I read.
As part of my Count down Queenslayer series, I am re-reading the first four instalments of Sebastian De Castell’s Spellslinger series until the release of the fifth book Queenslayer in May! January’s Re-read was therefore, Spellslinger. As this is a discussion post it will contain spoilers for Spellslinger. If you would prefer to read a spoiler free review of the book it can be found Here!
WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD
Part 1 – The First Trial
CHAPTER 1 – 11
Every time I pick up a De Castell book I am always delighted about the worldbuilding. He is truely the master of worldbuilding. We get vast amounts of information but without it feeling like an info dump. It feels natural. Our main character, Kellen, has such and easy narration that the information just flows as if you are having a conversation with a friend.
Right from the start it is so atmospheric, giving us a real feel for the magic system of Kellen’s people the Jan’tep. We are told how the spells taste and smell and that connection of the senses really sparks my imagination. The Jan’tep magic system is facitating and unique, it is also not the only system we learn about in this section in the later chapters we learn about the Argosi cards and that is just faciating.
I have to state I was always truely drawn to this book due to the description of how Kellen felt as he was dying. I had a major anaphylactic episode several years ago but the feeling of those moments have truely stuck with me and De Castell has captured them like no other I have read. I really connected with Kellen in that chapter and while he can have his whiney “life is unfair” moments to me, he is really authentic.
Along with Kellen we also meet Ferius – the kick ass wanderer who for most of this section remains a bit of an enigma. I love Ferius! She has some of the best lines in the book. She just seems to have such a cool and calm outlook on life and just deals with each problem as it comes. Though she is not without her vices. I do like how she starts to have an influence on Kellen, getting him to think about the actions of his people especially in how they treat those with out magic. It leads to some super tender moments between Kellen and his Uncle Abidos. While Kellen is struggling with his magic Abidos could be a real comfort, and when Kellen isn’t as suborn it really creates nice moments.
We meet so many people in this section and are introduced to so many characters but I am disappointed with the “villains”. Why would anyone give two shits about Tennat and his brothers. They seem to wield an unusual amount of power and influence for children. Also Shalla (Kellen’s sister) is just a brat!
We do get a little insight into the political side of the Jan’Tep. I still have no idea why the Dowager would take such an interest in Kellen. The using Kellen to find out Ferius’ motivation seems weak. There are also a couple of moments that are a bit weird. Castell has a bit of a problem describing women on occasion and the way Kellen describes his mother is a bit icky in my opinion.
Part 2 – The Second Trail
CHAPTER 12 -18
I am a woman, kid. You probably haven’t met one before, coming as you do from this backwards place, but its like a man only smarter and with bigger balls. – Ferius Parfax
Kellen has kind of accepted his fate of being Sha’Tep and just spends this section being sulky. Shalla is just more of a selfish brat which everyone just seems to let her away with as she is going to be powerful. Of course everything she did was for her own benefit and I firmly believe she had no intention on helping Kellen. She preys on his desperation to feel connected to his magic and his people. If anything she is a better villain that Tennat! The whole spirit animal section is a little confusing, but we do get to meet the Squirell-Cats! Which the whole nation of the Jan’Tep are scared of? Really?
Even Ferius and the Dowager are not that helpful in this section. Instead of just sitting Kellen down and telling him what is what they just spout riddles. It’s that troupe I hate where problems could just be solved if people would just talk to each other!
Part 3 – The Thrid Trial
Poor Kellen gets everything thrown at him in this section. I was glad when Kellen decided to go and save the Squirrel-cat. I had sneaking suspicions that it would turn out to be his spirit animal and that he would have accidentally bonded with it while trying to save Shalla. I love a sassy talking animal it is one of the top items in my wheelhouse so it having a foul mouthed squirrel cat running around this book is awesome. I loved that Ferius also understood their nature without understanding what he actually said to her making Kellen the translator.
I was originally in my first read through slightly disappointed in Kellen breaking his breath band and being able to do magic. But him developing the shadow black and how his parents react to him was just aweful. This time around I felt even more for him. I knew what had happened to him but it seemed so much worse this time around. To remove their own son from their society without allowing him to leave with Ferius with his magic intact is just horrible.
The one thing that surprised me most about this section was how much of a role both Nephenia and the Dowager played in helping Kellen. I never really understood the Dowagers connection to Kellen, why she choose him. But on this read through I picked up on elements of her being about to read the future of things. Her understanding of the Argosi cards and how she lead Kellen to his own conclusions instead of imposing answers on him, while frustrating to Kellen, allowed him to grow. He looses some of that whiney self pity as he takes on the challenges because he has been able to see all the atrocities of his people and realising that maybe being a great Jan’tep mage is not such an amazing thing.
I also think the Dowager knew all along why Ferius was hanging around and I also think Ferius knows a lot more than she is letting on. She made a deal with Reichis herself, showing him a card! I think she knows something about Kellen, something in the cards that we don’t yet understand. She is so supportive of him, offering to get him away from his family and sending Reichis to help. I think she has a lot more plates spinning than her clam collected nature gives away.
I was surprised that I completely forgot the actual plot within this book. While I remembered the over arching plot for Kellen I forgot who had been undermining the mages, poisoning the children, diminishing the magic. I forgot how much of a social commentary it was about what happens if you separate societies by a single trait, making a person lesser for not possessing it. Perhaps I am reading to much into it but it could be quite powerful. Learning the true nature of the Jan’tep nation and how horrible his people actually is I hope it will have an impact on Kellen
Again getting to know Reichis (who is by far my favourite character in this series) is amazing, I love how he is chided by his mother, how he takes no shit demanding to be a business partner over a familiar and just how sassy and sarcastic he is. I will continue to love that fuzzy little monster!
Part 4 – The Fourth Trial
CHAPTER 36 – EPILOGUE
The lies of the founding nation has corrupted it so much that they are so ingrained into the population that they keep perpetuating them, I can’t feel that the Sha’tep are truely evil, they are enslaved and downtrodden, their rights stripped from them. I think Kellen can’t quite accept this but he is also ingrained in this society that he can’t see his privilege. Again, I could be reading too much into it but it is a very powerful message, if only the Sha’tep hadn’t taken the actions they had. I doubt revenge on one person will solve the societies problems. I respect Kellen’s actions. To protect his sister despite her arrogance and selfish nature.
I love that Kellen returns to scheming, it is nice to see him being good at something. I like that he is far from the chosen one hero, instead he tries and fails and tries again. It really does make him more of a likeable character. What is truly original is the invention of a new magic system by the character as the story is going on. He uses the little magic he has and chemistry! Which is just genius and a great way to give Kellen power without giving him magic. There are so many twists and so many potential villains, however, I am never really convinced by many of them. It’s all based around the power of the magic, which is established toughout the book to be a house of cards so I cant really find the villains that intimidating. I like that Kellen realises he can use more than just the magic of the Jan’tep. It’s kind of nice to have a principle character that doesn’t fully run into face the final villian but instead tries to out smart them.
Even in the last pages of the book we are still getting world building and that is what truely makes this one of my favourite series. We never stop learning about the world and about the magic systems. More and more information is slowly built upon the last until the full picture begins to develop and it makes for a fantastic series. It’s one of the main reasons I love it.
The other squirell cats! I might have geared up a little at this part they didn’t deserve that at all. The moment with Chitra, is so sweet. It is lovely and caring and beautiful. I did tear up a little. Other than that moment the final show down is slightly disappointing. Again it is due to me not finding the villains that villainous. While I feel sorry for Kellen being thrown around its still not that impactful. What was more thrilling was the over arching story for Kellen and what it means for his future. What the shadowblack will do to him and how he will overcome it, control it. We still don’t really know how much Ferius understands but the revelation of who she really is, is powerful and impactful twist. It explains just the perfect amount, and opens up a fantastic proposition for the new adventures Kellen could get into as A Spellslinger!
ENDING – 8
STYLE AND PACE OF WRITING – 9
CHARACTERS – 9
ATMOSPHERE AND WORLDBUILDING – 10
PLOT – 8
ENJOYMENT – 10
Score = 54
My rating actually went up with use of my new system. Originally, I had given the book 4 stars as I had found Kellen whiney and the intereactions between the teenagers cringe-worthy. On this reading I didn’t care so much about those aspects, I saw aspects of the writing and the plot that had subtly working foreshadowing into the story. The world building shone out above all. The sheer amount of it was amazing and subtle. The pacing is fantastic and draws me in also the more time I can spend with the feisty Ferius and the sassy Squirrel cat the better. Even Kellen is growing on me!
Have you read Spellcaster? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below I would love to discuss the book with others!