Young Adult Reviews

Review: Soulbinder by Sebastien De Castell

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Extract:

Reichis was a mean little cuss, but he was my buisness partner. He’d saved my life a dozen times because that’s how it worked between us: we’d fight, and argue and insult each other, but when the chips went down, he was there for me. Always. Now I had to find a way to be there for him. 

(Soulbinder by Sebastien De Castell. P47.)

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Synopsis:

Kellen is searching for the mysterious Ebony Abbey. Legend says it shelters people with the shadowblack, people who would otherwise by killed by a world which fears them. During the search, Kellen is split from his loyal sidekick Reichis.

Meeting a community of shadowblacks brings Kellen closer to the shadow-magic than he has ever come before and# being apart from the world gives Kellen a space to think about the betrayal he has suffered at the hands of his family.

Kellen searches for his identity in this fourth installment of the Spellslinger series. 

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Review:

Regular readers know I am a big fan of the Spellslinger series. The first book was published shortly after I started my blog and it was a firm favourite. The non-conformity and magical kingdoms were always going to be a hit, but added to that was an epic cast of characters. Four books in and I am still caught up in Kellan’s adventures.

This review assumes you are familiar with the series. Although I will do my best not to include spoilers – if you haven’t read book one I recommend this is where you start.

Soulbinder is where Kellan confronts his own experiences and decides how to go forward. It is also the first book where he has been apart from his friends – mentor Ferius and familiar Reichis. This separation forces Kellan to choose what is most important to him. Unfortunately, once he’s made that choice, he is up against two groups of people with their own agendas.

This is a world where many people define themselves by their society, by their race. As someone who has abandoned his hometown, Kellan is an outlaw but he has never fully embraced a new label. Is he an Argosi? A Shadowblack? Has he always been a Jan’Tep, no matter how hard he runs from it?

The Ebony Abbey is one of those settings you will remember for a lifetime. It should be a sanctuary and a place of scholarship – a place where the shadow magic is not only accepted but studied. Unfortunately, as Kellan knows from experience, where there is magic there is someone willing to use it to their own end. 

As in the previous books, old faces mixed with new and we were introduced to another great cast of characters. This time we meet a community of people who, like Kellan, have the shadowblack. It was interesting to see the different ways people responded to the same thing. Until now, we have been familiar with Kellan’s reaction, but after reading Soulbinder I felt as if I had a broader perspective.

I’m looking forward to Queenslayer in 2019 and to the conclusion of the series next autumn. It will be a pleasure to read the series from start to finish and to remind myself how Kellan had developed and grown. These books just get better and better.

 

Thanks to Readers First and Hot Key Books for my copy of Soulbinder. Opinions my own.

Young Adult Reviews

Review: Charmcaster by Sebastien DeCastell

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Extract:

While Ferius is a master of trickery, and Rechis is two furry feet of sharp teeth, claws and a total disregard for the consequences of violence, I’ve got one and only one skill that matters in a situation like this: a piece of breath magic that relies on quick hands and the twin powders I keep in the pouches on either side of my belt. 

(Charmcaster by Sebastien De Castell. P10.) 

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Synopsis: 

Kellen, Ferius and Rechis are back for their third adventure. They make their way to Gitabria, a city of inventors and innovators, where a mechanical bird is about to cause huge problems. 

Both Kellen and Ferius are confronted with old faces from the past, and all word of the Jan’Tep indicates war. 

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Review:

Spellslinger is my favourite fantasy series. It follows a band of outlaws who have fallen on the wrong side of a magical dictatorship. Kellen, Ferius, and Rechis are back for their third adventure. This time they meet an old friend, visit a city of innovation and go on the hunt of a mechanical bird which might change the fate of the world. 

Charmcaster was an unputdownable as books one and two. I was pleased to see Neph return. In book one she was a side-character with little agency, but in Charmcaster she has a voice of her own, and she is something of a legend. I love the characters are developing across the series. Ferius’s backstory is an interesting strand, and I was pleased to learn more about her life and about the Argosi way. 

Now we are three books in, and war is on the horizon. We are learning more about the different cultures in the world, and about their motives and plans. The Jan’Tep are gaining power, but their society is built on flawed values. I’m not certain from the ending of book 3 where the next story is going, but that is one of the things I love about this series. De Castell is brilliant at setting up an adventure whilst throwing the reader completely off-trail.

My favourite thing about the series is the main characters. They are the kind of characters who remain in the reader’s head beyond the story. Now we are three books in, the bond between the key characters has been established. I love the dynamic between Ferius, Kellen, and Rechis. Although they are not sentimental about each other on the surface, they have each other’s backs. 

Witty, fast-paced and slightly subversive. Like the best YA books, these question the status-quo. The characters may not be successful by the conventions of their society, but they follow their own path and live good lives. 

These are must-reads. The countdown to book four begins. 

 

Thanks to ReadersFirst and Hot Key Books for my copy of Charmcaster. Opinions my own.

Louise Nettleton

Young Adult Reviews

Review – Shadowblack by Sebastien De Castell

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Extract:

‘Wait,’ I said to Rosie. ‘If Seneira doesn’t want to go home, why are you going there?’

It was Seneira who replied. Whatever goodwill I’d bought myself by my concern that she might be a prisoner had evidently been spent. ‘How thick are you? I’m neither Jan’Tep nor am I a student of magic, but somehow I caught the shadowblack.’ She pointed to Rosie and Ferius. These two weirdos are Argosi, which means that anything strange happens in the world and they feel a burning need to go paint a card about it. Obviously they think the markings mean something.’ 

(Shadowblack by Sebastien De Castell. P76.) breakbirdSynopsis:

It seems Kellen is not the only one cursed with the Shadowblack.

Kellen hasn’t found his calling. He travels with Ferius and Reichis, but he makes as good an outlaw as he did mage. Ferius has saved his back too many times, and Kellen is impatient to find his destiny. Could Kellen’s future be with Seneira? Seneira is the daughter of Beren Thrane, who runs the Academy in the Seven Sands. Rich and powerful families send their children to the Academy, where they become future leaders. Now Beren Thrane’s children have black marks around their eyes. Trouble is brewing in the Seven Sands

Spellslinger Dexan offers to cure Seneira, but only if Kellen can find the mage responsible for the curse. Kellen isn’t going to leave Seneira until he has the answers, but there are people who would rather he wasn’t in Seven Sands.

A sequel which lives up to Spellslinger. Kellen’s story continues, but he has no idea which direction he should take.

breakbirdReview:

Shadowblack, like Spellslinger, is a pacy, original story. The plot keeps you guessing until the final pages. It is clear something is wrong, but the answers unfold slowly, and I didn’t guess the full truth. 

Our knowledge of the world’s geography widens. The Academy and The Seven Sands were interesting additions. The Seven Sands isn’t accepted as a nation by the nations around it, even though the rich and influential send their children to The Academy for an elite education.

Beren Thrane was my favourite minor character. As with Kellen’s family in book one, we see different sides to Thrane – we see the successful and influential man who runs the academy, and the father who would do anything to cure his children. His different faces made him a believable character.    

Kellen’s story develops well. At the end of Spellslinger, it appeared he had found his destiny, wandering as an Argosi with Ferius, but the series challenges the notion finding your place, so it was never going to be that simple. I think this is important at a time when young people are under more pressure than ever to tick the right boxes. The world is so obsessed with life choices, we have forgotten how to live. The narrative doesn’t discourage hard work and sound morals, but it challenges people to think for themselves and to take the world as it comes.

Ferius Parfax is my favourite character of 2017, possibly of all time. She challenges stereotypes about women without resorting to the super-grumpy-superwoman image which is becoming too familiar in YA. Ferius is tough talking, but she doesn’t run from her own feelings, she follows them. Shadowblack adds depth to her character as we learn more about the Argosi. The introduction of Rosie gave us a counterpoint to Ferius. Rosie’s big on sticking to the rules and traditions of Argosi life, while Ferius lives up to the Argosi ideal without spouting rules left, right and centre. I love her Argosi name, The Path of the Wild Daisy. We learn that what Ferius is most afraid of is losing her freedom – her freedom to roam, to find her own way and to act on her own decisions.

If you read Spellslinger, you’re in for a treat. If you haven’t, check out my review here and get started. This new fantasy series is something special, and the journey begins here.