“My entire life I’d just assumed that, because of my parents, I was destined to be a great mage-a Jan’Tep hero like the ones in the stories I’d grown up on. Only I wasn’t a hero. I wasn’t special. I was just really, really angry.”
Sebastien de Castell is the real deal. Knowing that the Greatcoats series is popular, it’s no small thing whenever an author decides to leap genres. De Castell does really well writing in this genre, while still keeping the same humor and style.
In Spellslinger, we are introduced to Kellen, a young mage-in-training who lives in a world where his society is broken down into two groups: the Jan’Tep who have magic and the Sha’Tep who don’t. The Sha’Tep are little better than slaves as even their own families cast them out of their company regardless of how close they may have been prior to being Sha’Tep. The system rewards those able to use magic and severely punishes those who by sad happenstance simply can’t.
There is a message in this story that sometimes just “trying harder” isn’t enough to make a person successful. Sometimes the cards are stacked against them and all society does is continue to punish them for circumstances that were beyond their control.
With his sixteenth birthday coming soon, the time for him to take his mage trials is almost here. But he doesn’t have much control over his magic. If he can’t pass his trials, he’ll be forced to be into life as Sha’Tep. He is willing to put his life on the line to avoid this fate.
That is when we meet Ferius Parfax, a foreigner whom everyone thinks is a spy trying to steal secrets. However, there is more to the outsider than meets the eye, especially when she helps Kellen see things from a new perspective.
So we have a teenage protagonist who is desperate to prove his worth because he is a part of a heavily tiered society where people either have magic or they are slaves. Kellen’s identity has been wrapped up in these rules and it is no wonder that he is so devastated by his apparent lack of magic. Unlike his peers, who have never had to struggle the way he has, Kellen knows how to make the best out of a bad situation. He uses his quick wits and smarts to out-think his magical opponents. At times though he can be too trusting of his society and the system. That’s where Ferius comes in. She is very fun and written in a way that she is immediately likable and memorable. She tends to overshadow Kellen a few times but she is there to show him what the real world is like.
Plot-wise, Spellslinger is really well done. The beginning was slow but holds due to interesting world building. There are some rough moments, thankfully, that add to the story without being gimmicky. The little to no fluff involved, makes the plot streamlined and leaves little room for slow moments later on.
There were a few moments where it seemed like Kellen was about to go full-on villain and start blowing stuff up and in a way it was a little sad to see him pull back and revert to being the hero. Still, Kellen was an incredibly fun underdog hero to read about. His quick wit and intelligence made him a character that was fun to watch and engage with.
Spellslinger is an enjoyable ride that introduces an interesting world that promises to only get bigger and better as the series continues.