Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell

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3.5 stars. Albeit not perfect, Spellslinger was just so effortlessly readable. So much that I was genuinely surprised when I checked the number of pages and saw the story was 400 pages long : never once did I feel their weight.

‘First thing you learn wandering the long roads, kid. Evryone thinks they’re the hero of their own story.’

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The world created by De Castell, while somewhat devoid of strong originality – a world shared by magicians, tricksters, and warriors – still introduces a few surprises that delighted me : Argonis’ cards, for example, that Ferius uses to keep notes on the world’s History (also, they’re great as fighting props^^). I also really appreciated the inclusion of some kind of discussion about social inequalities in the narrative – even though it lacked a bit of depth. Indeed in Kellen’s clan, people are separated into two groups : the Jan’Tep, who can wield magic and pass the trials on their sixteen-years-old birthday, and the Sha’Tep, who fail their magic trials and live as servants for the Jan’Tep.

Fifteen-years-old Kellen is very much on the way to failure, and that’s all you need to know about the plot in my honest opinion.   

Perhaps I’ve been too estranged from fantasy this year but as a matter of fact, I found Spellslinger to be rather unpredictable : indeed I’ve failed to guess where the story was going not once, but several times.

Plus there’s little to no romance : sure, Kellen *thinks* is in love or whatever, but 1)he’s delusional in my opinion : that’s not love, that’s teenage lust ; 2)there’s literally *one* kiss exchanged and the romantic arc is inconsequential at the very best. I actually wonder why it’s present in the first place?

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Kellen is such a compelling character, really : how many times did the magicless, self-depreciating sidekick take the first place in a fantasy story? I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered his kind of non-hero (rather than antihero… so far : I have hopes for him to join the dark side ;)). Admittedly, you’ll be more likely to feel some kind of second-hand embarrassment than admiration, especially in the beginning, but Kellen is just so damn refreshing, I very much enjoyed following his adventures.

As for the secondary characters, well. Apart from the fact that I intensely disliked most Jan’Tep, I have to admit that they were rather interesting, even though their personalities were somewhat vague at times. What you need to know, basically : Jan’Tep are conceited jerks, and yes, that would include Kellen’s family.

My biggest complain related to the characterization lies on the way the female leads are, sometimes, more of a props to Kellen’s growth than anything else. Even Ferius, the fierce Argonis, because why the hell does she stick around and help him?? The woman is a saint, oh my god.

But the squirrel cats would be my favorites because SQUIRREL CATS *giggles*

When I didn’t move, he started making a waving motion with one paw. ‘Go on, little bird. Fly away. Fly away now.’

Squirrel cats, it turns out, are sarcastic assholes.

I loved how Sebastian De Castel played with the magician with a familiar trope and deconstructed it by making Reichis (the squirrel cat) ruin Kellen’s expectations. Dude has better to do than helping the boy for kicks and giggles.

Reichis looked up at me as if I were dim. ‘Kid, everything comes at a price. We’re squirrel cats, not dogs. We don’t work for bones and a pat on the head. Think it through, would you?’

Let’s talk paiement, thank you very much. It’s important to note, though, that this furry character, while fun, repeatedly uses ableist slurs through the story, and that’s a shame. 

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As my first book from Sebastian De Castell, I really didn’t know what to expect when it comes to the writing, and I was pleasantly surprised : while it does fall a bit on the youngest side of YA, and we very much realize that we’re in a fifteen-years-old boy’s head (with all the roll-eyed worthy thoughts that come with it),  mostly it was fun and compelling. As I said, effortlessly readable, and that’s not that frequent in YA Fantasy.

►All in all, it’s a very promising debut for a six books series : I can’t wait to see if its potential is fulfilled.

TW – animal cruelty, ableist slurs

Vector Art by www.vecteezy.com

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