Spellslinger: The Wild Wild West of Magic

Spellslinger Book review

What is this about?: Kellen wants nothing more than to be a mage, except for the slight problem that he has no magic. And his family are really all raging assholes that ruined his life.

What else is this about?: Fear. This is also a book about conforming, and to quote JKR, being the brave one that stands up to their friends when they’re going something stupid.

Blurb: “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.”

Kellen’s dreams of becoming a powerful mage like his father are shattered after a failed magical duel results in the complete loss of his abilities. When other young mages begin to suffer the same fate, Kellen is accused of unleashing a magical curse on his own clan and is forced to flee with the help of a mysterious foreign woman who may in fact be a spy in service to an enemy country. Unsure of who to trust, Kellen struggles to learn how to survive in a dangerous world without his magic even as he seeks out the true source of the curse. But when Kellen uncovers a conspiracy hatched by members of his own clan seeking to take power, he races back to his city in a desperate bid to outwit the mages arrayed against him before they can destroy his family.

Spellslinger is heroic fantasy with a western flavour.

Stars: 4/5

So, reading this blurb it occurs to me that it is messed up. Sighs. Whyyyy!

The thing is, when Spellslinger opens, Kellen is already aware he may very well have no magic whatsoever. He doesn’t need a failed magical duel to tell him that, but a failed magical duel does let his secret out to everyone, which in a town about to vote for their leader, who has to have a family of strong mages to be a powerful — note not good, power matters — he’s a liability to his father, who is one of the lead contenders for the position.

Let’s talk about the plot first

It’s a little bit Rebel of the Sands, I think, with the Western flavour, coupled with magic. Kellen has no power, or has enough for it to be of no consequence to anything whatsoever. But he’s intelligent, even if he is insecure about that. This is a society that relies on magic so much that nothing else matters — not your wits or your agility, because if you have strong magic, you win.

Kellen, however, has had to rely on all those things to keep his secret and survive.

Into this world comes Ferius Parfax, a drifter in essence with no magic either. She lives by her wits and doesn’t care for the town’s rules — she doesn’t revere mages, and that power means nothing to her because she’s lived her life without relying on it. She’s quick witted and sort of takes Kellen under her wing when his life and his family begin to fall apart when his secret comes out.

That is the straw that breaks the camel’s back in a way, and Kellen finds himself navigating his town and his people in a different way entirely — as his eyes open slowly to the politics within a town and a people he calls his own.

There’s a lot more to the plot of course, but if I give you any more details, it’s going to spoil so much. The best part though are the next two sections of this review.

Characterisation

Kellen’s arc is so compelling — this is a boy who has lived his whole life knowing where his place has to be in society. Without magic, he has nothing to look forward to, and his arc within this book is painful to read because it opens his eyes to the world and the people he loves to see the truth of them.

Ferius is his guide, of sorts, helping him open his eyes, in a way to his world and to hers. She sweeps into town and disrupts the conformity with ease, wielding her lack of magic and cards with glee. Those with magic immediately assume she’s evil, naturally, which just causes her to laugh more.

Kellen loves his family, and he’d die for them. But Kellen’s lessons about his people are lessons about his family, and neither are pleasant. Also, can I say, his sister is an insufferable egotist, but I can’t deny she loves her brother.

Then there’s Reichis, the talking squirrel cat. Think Jimney Cricket but homicidal and sassy. No, snarky. So much snark.

Pacing

There is always something happening in this story, if it’s characterisation or plot related and as a result, by the time I reached the last quarter of the book, I couldn’t figure out how I’d got there! I love it when I feel like that about a book. Which means by the end I’m like WHUTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT.

Spellslinger is a rich, complicated world, and Kellen is only just now realising how much bigger his own world is — more importantly, that his world can be bigger.

Spellslinger is out now! 

18 Comments

  • Damn, you have me kind of regretting that I didn’t request this from NG now lol. I looked at it because GORGEOUS COVER but just wasn’t sure if it’d be right for me. But gah, I’ve been craving something faster paced or just that would always have something going on to keep me hooked. And I like the sound of the characterization. Will definitely keep this on my TBR!

    • Verushka says:

      This is so good, Kristen, it really is. And the cover — first time I saw it I couldn’t take my eyes off it aT ALL! Also, you’re going to love Reichis I think!

  • Wow, that cover is just amazing. I stared at it for the longest time before moving on to read about the book. I hadn’t heard of Spellslinger before, but it sounds so unique. Pretty sure I’ve never read a fantasy novel with a Western flair before. Great review!

    • Verushka says:

      When I first saw it I totally did too! It is a little bit like Rebel of the Sands, only in a few ways. They are both SO enjoyable!

  • I don’t think I have mentioned before but I love how your “What is this about?” and “what else is this about” in your reviews 🙂 instant insight into the book. Great wait to get it out 🙂 You have to love books that you read without even notice! I haven’t read Rebel in the Sand yet but I like how this world sounds!

    • Verushka says:

      Thank you! It always surpised me (and sometimes not in a good way) to find out what else was in a book while reading it, so I added it to my reviews. Sometimes the “what else is it about” can change my whole perspective on it. And absolutely — a book has to be GOOD when you’re suddenly at the end and you don’ t know why.

  • Kelly says:

    I’ve seen a few covers on Instagram for this one but this is the first review I’ve come across Verushka and I must say, I’m hooked! I love books with characters who challenge ideals, even in fantasy and Kellen sounds like my kind of character. I thought this might have been more tailored towards an Irish characters given the character names. It sounds brilliant and can’t wait to grab a copy! Fabulous review! <3

    • Verushka says:

      The first one or two chapters, I think, I was just going along with the flow, but the book just kicks it up a notch and I got into it so much. Kellen is pretty much on a (hard journey( journey of self discovery, but what I liked the author showed him standing up for himself and not being blind to the truth of his life. IT was quite cool. And also homicidal talking squirrel cat sealed the deal lol

  • Greg says:

    Hmm the western element has me curious, and so does the talking squirrel cat because that just sounds fun. 🙂 This one sounds really different and quite original!

    • Verushka says:

      It reminded me of the wild west in the way duels went down, you know? Except it was magic it as using. It’s an amazing fantasy!

  • Oooo, you make this book sound so GOOD! First, I love the cover! It looks like a very cool playing card (which is the point, I know). 😀 All you had to do was name-drop Rebel of the Sands and I’d be sold! Even if it’s a remote comparison. I think I would enjoy this book. I’m glad you did, Verushka! Great review!

    Have a fantastic week. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

  • Maria Behar says:

    OMG, Verushka, this book is ALREADY out?! And you’ve ALREADY read it?! AWESOME!! It wasn’t all that long ago that it was being featured in “Waiting On Wednesday” and “Can’t Wait Wednesday”!! How Time does fly…..lol.

    Your OUTSTANDING review really clinched it for me — I have GOT to read this novel!! I can tell — thanks to your very well-written review — that I’m going to LOVE the characters, but ESPECIALLY Kellen and Ferius!!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!! I need to buy this book right away!! <3 <3 : ) : )

    • Verushka says:

      It’s excellent Maria! I look forward to your take on the cover too – maybe in your review? I thought the cards were such an oriignal design, especially given the importance of them in the narrative.

  • I am so annoyed with myself for not requesting this for review, that’s how great you’ve made it sound Verushka! How much do I love the fact that for once it’s a lady guiding the uninitiated/untested dude through a new life rather than the other way around? So much! Getting to the end of a story and having that “whuuuut” feeling is so rare. Clearly I need this in my life!

    • Verushka says:

      I am SO looking forward to the next one because we have to get to know Ferius! I think this book gave me just enough about her so that I am busting to know more in the next one! I thought there were really good choices made in terms of characterisation

  • For some reason, the way you’ve described this book reminds me of A Darker Shade of Magic in some respects, which actually makes me INCREDIBLY EXCITED because that book was amazing, and so were the books that came after it.

    I hadn’t had this book on my TBR, but I am going to add it now. I really love books about magic (that aren’t necessarily super heavy fantasies), so it looks like this book is right up my alley.

    Plus, the characters you mention sound AWESOME.

    Lovely review!

    • Verushka says:

      VE Schwab right? I felt like that series just started and the next thing I know it’s book 3 and I’m way behind. If it’s anything like this in any respects I should probably get to it lol I hope you get a chance to get to this one!

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