‘The old spellmasters like to say that magic has a taste. Ember spells are like a spice burning on your tongue. Breath magic is subtle, almost cool, the sensation of holding a mint leaf between your lips’
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…
What I thought:
I had lots of fun with this one. There are parts of it that are ‘traditional’ fantasy including the rules of magic and how the society works and how much they rely on it. The way that the society looks down on people without magic is taken to the extreme although the idea of a magic society scorning those that don’t have magic is a normal one. These traditional ideas are merged with the different aspects of a con games and slight of hand magic. And this merging makes something completely different that I’ve never seen before.
Kellen’s struggles with magic are contradictory to his family’s ease with it. His father is one of the elders and his sister is looking to continue that trend but she is also massively prideful and doesn’t accept that there may be other ways of doing something. Her belief that she is the best because she deserves to be forces Kellen into more uncomfortable situations that he wouldn’t otherwise be in. Shella does grow but doesn’t change her faith, the way that things are are the way that things should always be. People without magic (Sha’Tep) are servants to those with magic (Ja’Tep) and those that were once close family lose those bonds and just become servant and master. To the point that it is over halfway through the book before Kel calls his father’s brother his uncle and even then it is because he knows that he’ll fail the trials and become a Sha’Tep.
Everything changes for Kellen though because of two things, the first is that a stranger appears who uses slight of hand magic, chemistry, and a way with words. The second is that his peers also start losing their magic which implies that it might not just be him and instead something wrong with all of them. Kellen is desperate to learn more about the Agosi’s slight of hand card tricks, even though everyone looks down on them, as well as finding out what is happening to their magic so that he isn’t left behind. He’s not doing it as a great hero to make things better for everyone, he’s more honest with his motivation in that it is a selfish one. If he can fix the magic then he might not be scorned, and if he can’t fix the magic he can at least pretend to be able to use it. Plus there is a girl involved and he wants her to like him.
He also manages to get himself a squirrel cat as a familiar. A creature that his society think of as beings from hell and signs of evil. I love Reichis, he’s a sarcastic kleptomaniac who enjoys making explosions and biting people. The fact that people think he is a sign of evil and the world ending just makes things more fun for him. Frankly even if you don’t get along with some of the other characters it’s worth reading just for Reichis.
Why I read it:
I was unable to go to last years YALC (Young Adult Literary Convention) as I was away on World Guide and Scout camp, so I gave my best friend some money and told her to pick out a range of books for me. This was one of them and the idea of the mixture of Magic and magic intrigued me.
I loved this book and bought book 2 on my lunch break at work before I’d finished this one as I knew I was going to want to know what happened next. It’s a fun read that has a lot of traditional fantasy ideas whilst also being set in the wild west and turning a lot of those ideas on their heads.
Would I recommend? Definitely. This is one that I would offer to most people.
Popsugar: Meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get round to,
Read Harder: A Western (bit of a fudge as it’s not a traditional western, but does definitely fit.)
As always let me know what you think of my review and of this book if you’ve read it. I didn’t mean to not write anything for an entire week and plan to get the next review up a lot sooner. It helps that it’s for the next book in the series.
Also in exciting news I’ve been sent an ARC to review which I’m going to start reading tonight.
Ta Ta for now and keep reading.