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 surviving your fourteenth year. 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…
Author: Sebastian De Castell
Genre: fantasy, middle grade/young adult
Publisher: Allen & Unwin Australia
Link to buy book here.
This book had me reminiscent of the mood I felt whilst reading Percy Jackson. The way Kellen narrates is very easy to relate to, often amusing, and yet he can’t stop getting himself into bad situations. I connected to Kellen’s world immediately. I loved the magic, and Kellen’s intellect. I especially loved that he thought like a fifteen year old, but was also self-aware and extremely clever.
Ferius was hilarious too!!! Her one liners actually made me laugh aloud.
“Your ancient enemy is basically just a really, really big squirrel.”
Even though Kellen seems to get himself into bad situations, I loved that the plot didn’t just happen to him. He takes action a lot and often suffers for it, but gets lucky, too. While I was reading I often thought “GO KELLEN, DO MAGIC” but he couldn’t. He seemed to narrowly scrape by, most of the time. I felt sorry for him too and I think I posted a Goodreads update that went something like: PETITION TO GET KELLEN NICE PARENTS. (Like, really. Pls.)
This book… was brutal. The suffering and intensity of magic and fighting were described so well, I understood exactly what was happening. I couldn’t put Spellslinger down!! I wanted to wrap Kellen in a blanket, the poor dude.
The squirrel-cat was brilliant. After reading the synopsis (on the back of the book) I had no idea how he’d fit in, but it was hilarious, sarcastic, and beautiful. Slight warning, there is harm done to the animal that could be deemed distressing, but the characters don’t walk away from it unscathed. They are definitely punished by the narrative for it. And by the squirrel-cat. Nothing like a squirrel-cat threatening to eat your eyeballs after it’s been locked up in a cage.
The torture, fighting, punching, and pain, and the character’s reasoning for it, were also utterly brilliant. I was terrified for Kellen; his friends and culture turn against him and it was fascinating to walk away with the message I got: People will do anything if they believe they’re right and deserving. Which, ya know, obviously means pain and suffering for Kellen.
Overall: READ IT. Honestly, it’s just such an engaging fantasy book that’s so easy to dive into. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re into the Percy Jackson series, or even if you’re not. The humour, bluffing, magic and intellect absolutely thrilled me and I loved every second and every character in this book. (Loving to hate them counts, right?!)
I just enjoyed this SO MUCH. It was a fast-paced little fantasy book that I absolutely FLEW through and thoroughly enjoyed! Allen & Unwin completely surprised me with it and I AM SO GRATEFUL! ❤
5 / 5 stars
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for sending this book to me for review!