Spellwright by Blake Charlton

Rating 8.4/10
A great fantasy read with a thoughtful look at magic.

I first heard about this book this on twitter, it was highly recommended so I took the plunge and purchased it to read on my Kindle (the author’s website is www.blakecharlton.com and he is on twitter @blakecharlton). So with these ringing endorsements in my ears – OK, yes technically they were in front of my eyes - I plunged into the book.

I love some of the basic ideas and “rules” of this book: the idea that the magicians can read these languages that “normals” cannot read; that they have to build their spells on their own bodies; and that there are multiple languages, some of course are harder to write than others, with some languages involving pain when you pull the spells out of your body. All in there are some great ideas. As a result of this ability the magicians live a lot longer than the average human in this world and this of course brings its own complications.

Here is the blurb on the book: Nicodemus Weal is a cacographer, unable to reproduce even simple magical texts without 'misspelling' – a mistake which can have deadly consequences. He was supposed to be the Halcyon, a magic-user of unsurpassed power, destined to save the world; instead he is restricted to menial tasks, and mocked for his failure to live up to the prophecy.

But not everyone interprets prophecy in the same way. There are some factions who believe a cacographer such as Nicodemus could hold great power – power that might be used as easily for evil as for good. And when two of the wizards closest to Nicodemus are found dead, it becomes clear that some of those factions will stop at nothing to find the apprentice and bend him to their will…

So, what did I think of the book? I have come to the conclusion that I really enjoyed it. I struggled to get into the book at first; a few typos in the Kindle edition didn’t help. But, once I got into it I really fell in love with it. It’s different to what I was expecting but I’ve read and re-read it, and will not hesitate to buy the second book in the series. I have to say at times I find the early parts of this the authors’ first book slightly frustrating: it almost feels as if it is slightly stuck between being a young adult and an adult novel. The environment that the magicians live in seems at times to be slightly too perfect, which gives it a bit of a YA feel. At the start of the book we find out that Nicodemus is 25 and yet I sometimes felt as if I was reading about a group of school children. Please don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad, it is just slightly too idyllic at times. Maybe I’ve just been reading to many violent fantasy books lately. It felt more in the mould of say a Janny Wurtz, or an early Tad Williams book, rather than for example a Joe Abercrombie book.

As the story develops the calm around Starhaven starts to fall apart and about two thirds of the way through the book Nicodemus has to grow up in a hurry because he is forced out of Starhaven. We see him developing and having to come to terms with what he is and, possibly more importantly, what he could become. He fights as if his live depends upon it and it does, and when he has to fight dirty he doesn’t hesitate. Nicodemus appears to grow up quickly when left with no other choice. By the time I reached the end I forgot about my early qualms. I am really looking forward to seeing what happens next in this universe in the second book.

This book is a great fantasy read. If you want a hacking fest where your main character spends 90% of the book covered in her or his opponents entrails then this possibly isn’t the book for you. But, if you want a more thoughtful look at magic, and want a little less action which gives you the time to get to know about the characters and where you want to watch the magic develop and weave its own magic around you, then this is for you.

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