Author: Sebastien de Castell
Series: Spellslinger, #1
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release Date: May 4th 2017
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 simply to reach the age of sixteen. 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…
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
My Thoughts On…
For years Kellen’s magic has been fading, and as he approaches his sixteenth birthday he knows he needs to succeed all four of his trails or face being a Sha’Tep, a slave, for the rest of his life. He tries to use trickery to win the mage’s duel, but when it goes wrong his life is saved by Ferius, an Argosi traveller. Kellen admires Ferius, her mind and her way with cards which almost seem like magic to a boy who has none, but Kellen is a Jan’Tep and despite his failure he’s even more determined to pass the four trials.
Spellslinger has been on my TBR list for a good few years now; it seems to be a little bit of a hidden gem because I don’t see too many people talking about this series, but I thought it was a brilliant book and a strong start to the Spellslinger series. Told through Kellen’s POV Spellslinger focuses on his search for a way to pass the four trials, to keep his pitiful magic and his position as Jan’Tep, but there’s more happening under the surface Kellen only becomes aware of as the story unfolds.
Most of his people don’t trust the Argosi traveller in their midst, and with the clan prince dead there are tensions between the different clans which seem to be what drew Ferius to their town. Kellen’s time is running out, he seeks dangerous ways to restore his magic and win the trials but it seems like spending time with Ferius has opened Kellen’s eyes to the secrets that are being kept from him, secrets about the past of the Jan’Tep people and secrets about his own magic.
One of my favourite things about this book was how the plot seemed to have layers built on top of one another. At first glance when you first start reading Spellslinger is a story about Kellen trying to con his way past the mage’s duel, but then it becomes about the corruption of his people which seems to have drawn Ferius to them, and then it becomes about rebellion and danger, and magic aside Kellen needs to make a choice as to what kind of man he wants to be.
Kellen has relied on his mind in place of his magic, it’s all a con game to him and all he needs to do is con the right people to remain a Jan’Tep. It’s important to Kellen to pass all four trials and not become a Sha’Tep simply because of how powerful his family is, no son of the House of Ke should be a Sha’Tep. With fading magic Kellen is an outcast among the other apprentices, and it only gets worse when he stands up for Ferius. Most times facing off against someone Kellen falls back on what he knows, his cunning, to bluff and con people into doing what he wants but it doesn’t always work.
We don’t find out much about Ferius in Spellslinger; she arrives in town one day and saves Kellen’s life, but she seems to distain magic and the Jan’Tep’s reliance on it. Ferius becomes something of a mentor to Kellen, as much as Kellen has grown up with the teachings of the Jan’Tep Ferius knows there are more powerful things out there than magic. She doesn’t keep her head down, she outwardly challenges the ways of the Jan’Tep simply through her presence, and like Kellen she’s found better ways to fight using her cunning.
The other main character I loved in this book was Reichis, a squirrel cat which Kellen’s people believe to be fearsome demons. He’s sarcastic and vicious, he doesn’t seem to respect any human and is only in it for what he can get out of Kellen, but he makes for a good business partner. His interactions with Kellen were really funny at times, made more so by the fact that only Kellen can actually understand him.
There’s a lot of pressure on Kellen’s shoulders to live up this his family’s name and reputation, and for both Kellen and his sister Shalla the only way they can prove their worth is magic. Unlike Kellen Shalla is one of the most powerful apprentices of her generation and even though he loves his sister Kellen is sometimes a little jealous and resentful of that fact. Shalla can be brash and a little overconfident, she has their father’s arrogance, but she loves her brother and even when she goes about it in the wrong way she believes everything she does is to help him.
In this first book we only see a small fraction of the world. Spellslinger is told through Kellen’s POV so we only really know what he knows, and all he knows is the way of the Jan’Tep and what he has been taught of their history. The rules behind the magic of the Jan’Tep; the different bands apprentices break to access their powers and the four trials they have to complete to be given their mages name were detailed and well developed but the parts of the world Kellen didn’t know much about; the paths of Argosi travellers like Ferius and the Shadowblack, are still very much unknown.
Spellslinger was an addictive read for me and it never quite turned out how I expected it to, there were a couple of twists I saw coming but there were more that caught me off guard. A lot of this first book was focused on Kellen’s development, and I loved the bond that formed between Kellen, Reichis and Ferius, so I’m looking forwards to seeing where they go in the second book.
What did you think of Spellslinger? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.