Title: Charmcaster

Author: Sebastien de Castell

Series: Spellslinger, #3

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Release Date: May 17th 2018


Five Stars

The third book in the page-turning Spellslinger fantasy series.

“I was getting almost as good at running away from enemies as I was at making them in the first place. Turns out, I wasn’t running nearly fast enough.”

Kellen has begun to master his spellslinging and the Argosi tricks for staying alive, and he and Reichis have found a career that suits them both: taking down mercenary mages who make people’s lives miserable. But Ferius is concerned that Kellen is courting disaster…

Perfect for fans of The Dark Tower, Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy, Terry Pratchett, Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher.

– Blurb courtesy of

This review may contain spoilers for previous book(s) in the series.

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“Our mission is to execute Kellen of the Jan’Tep, not to slaughter misguided travellers.”
“Heh,” Reichis said as he crouched down in preparation to attack. “This would be kind of funny if we weren’t about to get killed anyway.”

After everything they’ve survived it seems like Kellen, Ferius and Reichis may have finally met their match in the latest mage who’s tracked the warrant on Kellen’s head, until the Berabesq Faithful appear hunting the mage. Unable to subject someone to the Berabesq Faithful brand of justice Ferius is determined to save the mage and Kellen finds himself face to face with someone he thought he left behind when he left his people.

Again we miss a large chunk of time between the ending of Shadowblack and Charmcaster – Kellen, Ferius and Reichis have been tracking down the Academy students turned into unknowing spies and removing the obsidian worms from their eyes, and now only have one left to find– but Charmcaster drops us back into the middle of the action and danger and it wasn’t hard to catch up. This third book also builds on the overall series arc that was introduced in Shadowblack; there is a war coming, and Kellen seems to always be stuck in the middle of it.

“You’re not getting it, either of you. This isn’t some wondrous creation or beautiful toy she’s made.”
“Then what is it?” I asked.
“A discordance. Something that could set off a war. That damned fool has created a new kind of weapon and she doesn’t even know it.”

The last obsidian worm is in Gitabria, hidden inside the eye of one of the students Kellen met at the Academy, and when Kellen, Ferius, Reichis and Nephenia arrive they discover why Cressia was made into an unknowing spy. Cressia’s mother has created something which could start a war, and while she’s unsure how to replicate it both Gitabria and its enemies are determined to uncover the secret behind the small mechanical bird that’s been brought to life.

Charmcaster is much darker than the previous two books, and it seems to signify a turning point for both the series and Kellen’s character. I have no clue where the Spellslinger series is going to go with the next three books, but Sebastien de Castell seems to be building up to something big. Each book so far has been very contained, there’s been a very definitive ending to the story, but Charmcaster felt like an ending to the first half of the trilogy and the beginning to something new.

…The Characters

“Coward!” he shouted. “I showed you the honour of a fair fight and yet you come at me with tricks and deceptions.”
“Sorry,” I said, not bothering to sound sincere. “But tricks and deceptions are kind of my thing.”

Kellen changes so much in this book; in the first one he was a naïve Jan’Tep, desperate for magic, and in the second he was a lost outlaw, struggling to find his place, but in Charmcaster we start seeing the shape of the person he will become. He’s learnt a lot from Ferius in the time he’s been travelling with her, enough to fight back against his enemies with more than his Spellslinger powders, but he has a stubborn determined way which starts leading him to dark places.

It depicted a road so covered in twisting black markings it looked as if the entire card had been soaked in ink. The title at the bottom read, ‘The Path of Shadows’.
“This is where the path leads, Kellen. This war – and make no mistake, that’s what’s coming – needs something to walk a road too dark for the rest of us.”

Ever since he left his people Kellen has been travelling alongside Ferius, learning the ways of the Argosi from her, but in Charmcaster you start to see the paths they’re walking along separate. Kellen is travelling down a dark road, and he isn’t always willing to follow Ferius’s more compassionate path when it’s the people he loves who are being hurt and when he sees the injustice his people are causing knowing he can do something to end it.

“You see a girl with missing fingers. I see my hands.” She put the glove back on. “When I look at your face, I see my friend. But when you look in the mirror I bet all you see are shadows.”
I don’t think her words were meant to make me feel small, but that’s exactly what they did.

Nephenia is another character who’s changed a lot since the first book, but unlike with Kellen we didn’t get to see her gradual development, just the end result. Nephenia is no longer the quiet apprentice, following the crowd and trying to keep her head down in order to gain her mages name. She’s been through a lot since she last saw Kellen, possibly more than Kellen has, but she’s just come out the other side stronger for it.

Like Kellen Nephenia has scars from her struggles with the Jan’Tep, but unlike Kellen she doesn’t see them as anything to be ashamed of and hidden away the way Kellen hides his shadowblack markings. Kellen still has feelings for Nephenia, but given how long they’ve been apart, and the way their lives have changed since they last saw one another, the two almost need to build their relationship up from scratch as the people they’ve become, instead of as the people they were.

…The Setting

“For the next two hours I sat in mute wonder as a parade of unusual and sometimes bizarre commodities made their way across the stage. Delicacies from places I’d never heard of were overshadowed by beautiful carved tools made from woods stronger than steel, only to have those pale in comparison to cloth goods like a shirt made from a kind of linen that cooled in the presence of heat and warmed when ice was placed against it.”

One of my favourite things about this series is how with every book we piece together another part of the world Kellen lives in. Charmcaster takes us to Gitabria, one of the major cities that borders the Seven Sands where the most amazing creations are invented. Kellen, Ferius, Reichis and Nephenia arrive in time for the Grand Exhibition, where inventions are showcased and sold to the highest bidders. However as amazing and wondrous as Gitabria seems there’s a dark side; Jan’Tep mages are hidden away somewhere close, controlling the worm in Cressia’s eye and using the deadly Red Mage to hunt Kellen down, and that’s saying nothing of the guards who enforce the rules and oversee the people of Gitabria. Cunning and cruel they know what Cressia’s mother has invented, know what it could mean for Gitabria, and they’re determined to win the war before it’s even started.

The Spellslinger series is fast becoming a favourite of mine, I’m hooked, and so far Charmcaster is my favourite of all the books released to date. Kellen has come so far in terms of his character development, something all the more obvious when he was interacting with Jan’Tep from his home, and as always every scene with Kellen and Reichis brought a smile to my face.

What did you think of Charmcaster? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

One thought on “Charmcaster

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