Friday, September 23, 2016

Review: Spellwright by Blake Charlton

Image:  Book cover.  A man with flowing black hair and wizard robes holds a ball of light in one hand and a book in the other.  He is standing on a dais.  A stone, hawk like creature is perched above his head. 

Nicodemus is a wizard-in-training, dreaming of the day he can wear the robes of a full mage.  In this world, magic is literally made of text—letters, words, paragraphs—that form what you need them to be.  But Nicodemus may never get the wizard robes he so covets because every spell he touches becomes corrupted.  Oh, and he fits the prophesy of someone who could save the whole of magic… or destroy it and everything else.

Nicodemus is a good protagonist with complex emotions.  He wants so badly to become a true wizard and often hates his disability, even to the point of wanting a cure (which he doesn’t find in this book) but not to the point dooming other people.  He is loyal and courageous, hopeful and frustrated.   Some readers will find his moments of self-pity irritating.  Nicodemus is around twenty-five.

The secondary characters are interesting.  Nicodemus’ mentor is Master Shannon, a blind (sort of) teacher who was exiled for political leanings from his old city.  Nicodemus meets druids (one has a limp) who have their own agenda given by a goddess.  A former student of Shannon’s is the head of security for visiting diplomats.  The villain is unabashedly evil.

The other disabled spellwrights, only two of which the book goes into any detail with, were realistic but not satisfying to me.  Dev, who appears to have ADD, only gets a few snippets of scenes throughout the entire book.  And John, who gets a fair bit more time… well… let’s just say it isn’t what it looks like.
I wish the author would have went into more detail with the other disabled wizards-in-training.

The setting is cool.  The university, where a good portion of the story takes place, is described well.  The secondary locales are detailed, too.  Even though this takes place at a magic school, Nicodemus is more like a teacher’s assistant (he sometimes teaches basic classes to younger students).

The magic system is unique and the history pretty robust, even drawing on Christian mythology for part of it.  But, because there is a lot to explain and describe, the book gets bogged down in details, which considerably slows the pacing in spots.  There are long dialogue sections trying to educate the reader on how something works or what happened in the past.  Though there is plenty of action, as well.

Some elements of the story aren’t revealed until later.  For instance, the book mentions the prophesy near the beginning, but the reader won’t know what the prophesy STATES until page eighty.  A race of beings said to have been in Nicodemus’ city in the past aren’t even described or explained until hundreds of pages into the story.

The story does use the word “retarded” more than once.  Nicodemus calls himself that, or gets called that, on a few occasions and another disabled spellwright, whom they call “Simple John” is also referred to as such. I’m sure I found a few more ableist slurs in there, but I wince every time I see that word.
Since the book is about disabled characters, and the author himself has dyslexia, it’s up to each reader to determine whether or not that’s a deal breaker for reading this book.
Other Notes:

This book has no sex, though mentions Nicodemus had a girlfriend in the past.
There is swearing, though most of it is creative.
There is violence and people do get murdered, but it is mostly fantasy violence.
There is zero rape.
This is book one of a trilogy, but there isn’t a cliffhanger.

I definitely recommend this book. 

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