Title / Spellslinger and Shadowblack
Author / Sebastien de Castell
Publication Date / 2017
Series or standalone / Book 1 and 2 of 6 – the Spellslinger series
Overall Star Rating / ★★★★
Goodreads synopsis of book 1: 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…
This is a six book YA fantasy series that is set in the same universe as his Greatcoats series but in a different continent. I had started the Greatcoats series and had loved the first two books, so when I found it he had another series I was immediately interested. I very much enjoyed these first two books in the series. I have to admit that it took me a little while to get into the first book but after a few chapters I had settled into the flow of the story. One of the things I like about this series so far is the magic system. In this world society is split into two factions; Jan’Tep, who are able to wield magic and Sha’Tep, who very little or no magical powers and are now the servants of the Jan’Tep. The magic is split into 6 types, including iron, breath and silk. Iron represents protective magic, breath represents air and wind magic, and silk represents mind manipulation magic. Children in this world have six band tattoos on their arms that need to spark to be able to use magic. Most will spark one or two bands, but the most powerful will spark all six. This magic system is quite different to others I’ve seen and I thought it was well thought out. However, I think it was also a little lacking in information. For example I’m still not really sure how you spark bands, but perhaps we’ll find out in the later books. Despite this the magic system is still one of the strengths of this series.
Another aspect I like are the characters. Both of these books have great characters and you come to really care about them. I love Reichis as a character and he makes a great companion for Kellen. It’s quite refreshing to have a main character that sucks at magic, instead of being the best. Castell has created a fantastic cast of characters that has really developed over the two books. I look forward to seeing how they progress in the next four books. The plot in both books are compelling throughout, although I would say that the first book in particular is a bit of a slow burner. There are twists and turns dotted throughout that will keep you engaged. I thought that the sequel felt more assured and I would say that I enjoyed it more than the first book, as I thought that the plot in the first book was a little messy at times. Basically it sometimes felt that the first book had little purpose, like it didn’t really know where it was going, if that makes sense. I did still enjoy the plot of both books though.
One of my main issues about these books is the world building. You get a vague understanding of the world, but I wanted more. I think world building is a very important part of a fantasy book and in these two books I felt that it was lacking. I wanted a wider understanding of the world as whole, instead of the insular look based sorely around Kellen. As I mentioned earlier with the magic system, this series so far is just a little lacking in some information. You are given just enough information to have a vague understanding but in many ways you are only given the bare bones. While I would have preferred more information, it didn’t affect my overall reading experience too much, but it may be something to be aware of going in. Despite romance playing only a small part in both of these books it managed to irritate me a little. It kind of just felt like it was there for the sack of having a romance instead of anything else.
Overall these first two books in the series are entertaining, fast paced reads with a great cast of characters and an interesting magic system. It has a good mix of traditional fantasy elements as well as some more innovative parts, but quite a distinct lack of world building. The third book, Charmcaster, comes out May 17th. I will definitely be continuing on with this series. I have to admit that I prefer the Greatcoats series over this one, but they are both great. Have you read this series? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.