Don’t miss this week’s podcast discussion and review for this book!
In Sufficiently Advanced Magic, those looking to acquire magical abilities, called attunements, must go through the trials of the Spires, towers reminiscent of video game dungeons with puzzles, monsters, and traps that the person must go through to be gifted with their magical abilities.
Five years ago, Corin’s brother entered the tower but never came out and is presumed to be dead. Now Corin is going in himself to gain his own attunement and, ultimately, to save his brother.
So first off, the one thing that plagues this book is tons of infodumps and exposition. The magic system is clearly very detailed and more thought out that many magic systems in fantasy but in world building and setting up magic, less is more sometimes. Most of the time, the things discussed in these infodumps would come back to play a part in the story eventually but their constant presence drags down the storytelling considerably.
With that out of the way, this is actually a very fun story.
LitRPG seems to be a new subgenre for fantasy, or at least newly gaining ground, and I would say that this is a great example of what the genre can do. RPG aspects are integrated with the story in a way that makes sense. Because really, when playing video games, do we actually believe that a particular pants suit has a numerical defense value attached to it? Probably not. But in Sufficiently Advanced Magic, they actually can and it is presented in a way that makes sense.
Creating items requires the characters to acquire certain ingredients or pieces and the conversations surrounding which items would be crafted were very reminiscent of a gamer deciding what items to grind for and how to prioritize what areas to go to in order to get what you need.
There are various attunements that a person can have but all of them require mana, a finite resource within each person that must be tapped into in order to use magical abilities or items. As a magic user practices their abilities, they “level up” and more mana becomes available to them. Mana is a staple aspect of so many RPGs and it was fun to see if used in a book in a way that felt very much like it does in gaming. Again, once you got past all the info-dumping about it.
The start of this book drops the reader right into Corin going into the Spire. I found this a little disconcerting because there was no setup for the world or characterization for Corin before he was dropped into situations. I was honestly kind of relieved that this only lasted about 10% of the book and then Corin left the Spire to go to an academy-like setting to learn more about the attunements because this better allowed to reader to get to know the world and the magic system.
The events that took place in that first 10% undoubtedly had an impact on the rest of the story, it was just a little strange to me to do story first and then world building and characterization. But it at all worked out in the end because it lays the foundation for the rest of the story to unfold.
I did get pretty tired of after almost every info-dumping scene or every time that Corin learned about something new he said something like “I will have to research this more.” It wasn’t just once or twice, it was every damn time he heard something new and it kind of got on my nerves. I mentally started just deleting those lines because I felt like they were unnecessary in portraying Corin’s curiosity and acknowledgment that he was lacking in some areas.
One thing that I did enjoy was finding out that Corin is a gay MC. This isn’t a huge part of the story, there isn’t a big romance plot by any means. But the relationship that is involved in the story was very organic and I felt like the two characters had a lot of chemistry so it wasn’t forcing a romantic/LGBT plot into a book.
I am really glad that I learned about SPFBO this year because I would not have even heard of this book if it were not for this competition hosted by Mark Lawrence. Even though there was a lot of exposition that I felt bogged down the story a lot, now that I have finished it all that I remember is an immersive world with characters that I definitely want to see more of.
Now if you will excuse me, I am going to go watch the author’s Goodreads page for an update on the release date of book 2.
I was very confused by what a LitRPG was before we read this book. To be honest I still am. This book has such a intresting and seemingly rich world. The background has me so invested that I want to know more. Not that Corin is a bad character; just that when the author tells you all the information about this intricate world it takes some of the magic away. Tell us a little bit. Just give us the tiniest taste, and then in fights or other cool moments show the different attunements.
Overall I did enjoy this book and am looking forward to more from this author.