Thank you Sebastien de Castell, your book has been the first book I’ve been able to read fully from front cover to back cover for what feels like a really long time. I devoured Spellslinger, and I have absolutely no regrets or complaints, other than, do you have to be so mean to poor Kellen? Seriously, that kid has the worst luck ever.
I will attempt to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, but I will explain little details here and there.
Spellslinger is a YA/Adult Fantasy with mages called Jan’Tep and ordinary people called Sha’Tep. They live in cities with magical oases, which strengthen the magic of those fortunate enough to be a Jan’Tep. The Jan’Tep live in the nice houses in the cities and have lots of freedom whilst most of the Sha’Tep live in the slums and work in the mines. The Jan’Tep’s only vocation in life is magic, so when they are confronted by people who have no magic but can do things they can’t, or even do the same things better, the Jan’Tep become rather confused and lost. The story follows a fifteen year old boy called Kellen who wants nothing more than to become a Jan’Tep mage, the only problem is, he has next to no magical ability. Terrified of becoming a Sha’Tep like his uncle, he attempts to seek alternative ways of earning his mage name. After a magical accident, he is rescued by a mysterious woman known as Ferius Parfax and learns through her that magic and power isn’t always as great as it seems.
My favourite character was obviously Ferius Parfax, it’s about time we had some kick-ass, cool, realistic-looking, middle aged women in fantasy. Loved it. Loved her. Ferius acts very much like Kellen’s moral compass throughout the story, and also gets Kellen to question the things he believes. I am itching to read the rest of the series just because of this character.
I loved how realistically grounded Spellslinger is, despite the fantasy elements, talking animals and the magic, the story itself is unnervingly close to real life. The struggles Kellen faces and the fact that Castell does not make him a hero with special powers is refreshing. Kellen isn’t special, if anything he is cursed, and every difficult decision he makes he struggles with just like any ordinary person would. I laughed out loud at all the awkward situations Kellen managed to find himself in, and the confidence he tried so desperately to showcase but then couldn’t back up with magic so was forced to use other means. As the reader you keep hoping for that typical fantasy moment where the main character is suddenly blessed with phenomenal powers, but it never happens for Kellen, and even when it kind of does, it’s not a good thing.
I loved the historical twist at the end. It really turned the good guys versus bad guys trope right on its head, and again, it’s alarmingly realistic. Everyone grows up thinking and hoping that they are the good guys and that their ancestors were also the good guys, but this is rarely the case. Castell takes this unfortunate reality and uses it within his story. It’s not just a coming-of-age story about Kellen, it is also a stark reality check for Kellen and everything he thought he knew. The world is not quite as simple and clear cut as Kellen has always believed. Kellen becomes a man responsible for himself, his morals and his own decisions, rather than the child he had once been, blindly following his parents and society. It’s nice to see an ordinary person coming to terms with this in a fantasy world.
Spellslinger is absolutely rife with injustice. Usually any form of injustice makes me cringe, but Castell uses moments of injustice to reveal truths to the reader and Kellen. It is cleverly done, and with every injustice that came along I was desperate to find out what would be revealed next. The injustice is also rather sad at times, Kellen is betrayed because he is different, and friendships he thought he had are broken. He has to come to terms with the fact that his parents value status over family members, and he realises just how far people will go and the awful things they will do, to maintain power.
The story ends with Kellen leaving his old life and family in order to join Ferius on the road.
I would definitely recommend Spellslinger to anyone who is looking for a fantasy book or just something that is a little different. As I’ve mentioned, this story is firmly grounded in reality and shows that there are many sides to every story. It’s staying on my bookshelf because it is so different and refreshing, and because Ferius is such an awesome character. 5/5 stars from me, I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.