Hey you all! A week ago I won a really nice surprise package containing three books on the Kinderboeken Facebookpage. One of those books was the Dutch version of Spellslinger (Vogelvrij) by Canadian author Sebastien de Castell. This book has been on my wishlist for quite some time, so I was really happy when I saw it was in my package. What was even more fun was the fact that Nienke from https://kinderboeken.blog asked me to write a guest review for their blog (so, if you want to read this blogpost in Dutch you can find it on their blog!) But here, on my own blog, I will share the English version of my review.
Let’s start with the description
There are three things that earn you a man’s name among the Jan’Tep. The first is to demonstrate the strength to defend your family. The second is to prove you can perform the high magic that defines our people. The third is simply to reach the age of sixteen. I was a few weeks shy of my birthday when I learned that I wouldn’t be doing any of those things.
Magic is a con game.
Kellen is moments away from facing his first mage’s duel and the start of four trials that will make him a spellcaster. There’s just one problem: his magic is gone. As his sixteenth birthday approaches, Kellen falls back on his cunning in a bid to avoid total disgrace. But when a daring stranger arrives in town, she challenges Kellen to take a different path. Ferius Parfax is one of the mysterious Argosi – a traveller who lives by her wits and the three decks of cards she carries. She’s difficult and unpredictable, but she may be Kellen’s only hope…
How freaking awesome is that description! And the cover ❤
I’ve got so much love for this cover!
This story could well be my favorite of 2018 (and yes the year just started) ❤ I just completely fell in love with this story! It’s such an original, suspensefull and emotional book and I couldn’t stop reading. I don’t know what to do with my life until I can finally read the next book and see what happens next haha.
So, what makes this story great? Let me tell you in four tests which the author passed 😉
Test one: the maincharacter: Kellen. He is not exactly what you would call a hero. When you first meet him he’s egotistical, cowardly, arrogant and full of self pity, yet at the same time smart and devious. I’ve got a weak spot for characters like this haha and it was awesome and refreshing to read the story of a character who isn’t some kind of action hero (quite the opposite). Of course Kellen learns and grows in this story because of all the things that happen to him. Slowly he finds his courage and his worth. His characterdevelopment was written so incredibly well and so emotional that I had to fight my tears on more than one occasion because you don’t wish on anybody the things Kellen has to suffer through.
Test two: worldbuilding and plot. De Castell takes you on an incredible fast-paced journey. This story is full of spectacular events mixed with emotional scenes that effotlessly pulled me in and had me empathizing with Kellen. The way in which the writer manages to bring his storyworld to life is so awesome, without becoming dull or longwinded he firmly roots his magical and political systems in the story so the reader knows exactly how and why things work the way they do. The cruel system of the Jan’Tep was just so realistic.
In the world of the Jan’Tep nothing is more important than magic. Those who possess it are regarded with high esteem, while those who lack it are treated as slaves. Worse is the fact that these slaves are familymembers but are treated like cattle and disposable waste instead. The Jan’Tep are so preoccupied with their magic that they don’t even shy away from torture and murder to protect their way of life. Against this background the reader follows Kellens development from a pampered boy into a young man who fights for justice and truth. Because if you are faced with the consequences of having no magic in a world where nothing is more important, you quikly learn who your friends are and which qualities are most important in the world at large.
Test three: the side characters. I love stories that have a whole cast of weird and interesting side characters. And this book is filled with them! One of them is the mysterious nomad Ferius Parfax who shows up in Kellens life just when his magic starts to disappear. Ferius is one of those characters you fall in love with instantly: she’s sarcastic, rowdy, doesn’t know when to shut up, doesn’t abide to any rules or etiquette, but possesses a strong sense of right and wrong and a strong moral compass. She is one of the most entertaining and fun mentors I ever came across in a book!
“First thing you learn wandering the long roads, kid. Everyone thinks they’re the hero of their own story.”
Another awesome character is Reichis the squirrel cat ❤ I’ve got a weak spot for animal characters, especially when they are sarcastic, full of mischief, don’t know when to fight and when not to haha. The interaction between Reichis and Kellen had me laughing out loud more than once.
“All right, you hairless skinbag sons of bitches. Which one of you wants it first?”
Kellens uncle Abydos is one of the most complex and fascinating characters in the entire story. Because he has no magic, he has become one of the Sha’Tep who work as servants for their family. In the beginning of the book it is hard to understand that Abydos is part of the family but is treated like he is no more than a slave. At first it seems as though Abydos is fine with the way he is treated and what his life looks like, but not all is as it seems 😉
Mer’esan was a character that intrigued me enormously. At first you wonder why the late wife of the clanleader has any interest in a boy that has little to no magic but slowly the writer unfolds his plot in a genius way and Kellen learns the horrible truth about his people’s past and the world he lives in, convincing him that the Jan’Tep way isn’t the right way.
“History is written by the victors,’ she said, ‘but the truth has a way of revealing itself.”
Kellens sister Shalla, his best friend Panahsi, his rival Tennat and his love interest Nephenia are written just as intruiging and well as all the other characters and add even more layers to the story and the plot.
Test four: writing style. I love Sebastiens writing style. It’s full of humor, emotional, suspensefull and deliciously fast-paced. He had me hooked from the very first sentence until the last. I was thoroughly engaged and entertained.
If you’re still not convinced if you want to read this book I will try one final time to convince you that this book is FANTASTIC! It’s got an original and cool magic system, great worldbuilding, an awesome cast of characters and a main character who is utterly unique in a YA story, and the story is just full of suspense and action ❤