Spellslinger is an excellent young adult novel that does a great job in building its setting. The story follows a boy named Kellen who is a member of a tribe of people called the Jah’tep, who are a group of mages. Their culture values magic so highly that they enslave the members of their clan that can’t perform it. Kellen is dangerously close to becoming one such slave as he is almost 16 and has yet to activate one of the magical tattoos that line his forearms. Kellen’s sister on the other hand is a prodigy so powerful that she can already contend with the clan’s lords at only 13 and is expected to only grow stronger with age.
Without magic, Kellen has to rely on tricks and the advice of a wandering woman named Ferius to get him through the trials and tribulations of his repugnant culture. After making another unlikely ally in Reichis, who is a breed of intelligent squirrel/bobcat, and sparking his first band (breath). Kellen is revealed to have a horrible demonic curse known as the shadowblack. With this information in toe the three protagonists have to foil a plot to kill Kellen’s sister by a rival house and from there, decide what their fates will be.
The story is a pretty quick read but it makes you desperately hope for Kellen to succeed early on by establishing his bullies. Bullies are not an uncommon trope in YA but this book takes it to another level. Kellen is beat to a pulp constantly and is only saved by the high position of his father Ke’heops. His father is a story on its own. The man is completely loyal to the bizarre rituals and traditions of the isolationist mage culture and although he is shown to have some care for his son, he would gladly sacrifice his first child in the name of his daughter’s success. Kellen’s mother is better than his father but is also warped by the culture and would still consign her son to slavery, but would see him their house slave as opposed to a laborer. His sister is the only family member that legitimately loves him and is willing to use her overwhelming power to fight on his behalf but is still too young and naive to realize it won’t work.
My Rating- 3.8 breaths out of 5