Pauper's Empire by Levi Jacobs

8.0/10
A fantastic read with a nuanced and deep magic system
Pauper's Empire book cover

Pauper’s Empire continues the story begun in Beggar’s Rebellion, and that story is epic and sweeping while feeling quite personal because of the focus on a comparatively small cast of characters. Levi Jacobs excels at giving us an action-packed plot that rarely lets off the gas. The Resonant Saga is a lot of fun and will appeal especially to fans of Brandon Sanderson.

There is a lot that I loved about this second book in the series. Pauper’s Empire takes everything I enjoyed about Beggar’s Rebellion and continues doing it well. Probably the best part of this novel, like its predecessor, is the magic system. We continue to learn and discover more about the magic, and I love how the magic feels even deeper by the end of the novel. There’s still more to discover, to be sure, but we’re beginning to see just how complex and engaging the magic is - and it’s awesome. Jacobs is careful to make reveals about the magic exciting by linking them with character growth or an important plot point. This helps ensure that the magic doesn’t feel tacked on, or infodumpy, but instead a natural part of the world that we’re discovering along with the characters. If I can make a blunt statement: if you enjoy hard magic systems, you’re going to love this book. There are simply no two ways about it. The magic is cool and engaging and fun enough all by itself to make this a worthy read. There are plenty of other strengths to the story, however. Battle sequences and fight scenes are another area where the novel shines. Not only are they pulse-pounding, but they are described in a way that sticks with you, creating cinematic images in the mind. The overall pacing of the novel is also well done, giving the reader ebbs and flows to the action. This helps to create space for one of the other aspects of the novel that I really enjoyed: characters dealing with real issues. Jacobs tackles issues of racism and colonialism in these novels, and he does so in ways that feel authentic. While some characters want to build a world that feels different from the one they were oppressed in, other characters want to use their newfound power to ensure they’ll never be oppressed again by oppressing those who once wronged them. It’s a natural reaction and one any human being can relate to, and Jacobs uses this to elevate his story beyond a mere action flick. This added depth to the characters, as they struggle to figure out their world and themselves, is wonderful.

The weaknesses of the novel parallel its strengths. The magic system is definitely inspired by Sanderson’s work, and so for those who don’t enjoy Sanderson it might be a deterrent. While I find the magic to be Sanderson-esque without being derivative, others might wish for more originality. Another weakness is that at times it can feel as if character growth comes a little too suddenly. This is particularly true for one character who struggles with racism for much of the novel. Perhaps the most frustrating weakness, for me, was that there are a number of typos throughout the novel.

Pauper’s Empire is a fantastic read with a nuanced and deep magic system. The characters feel authentic in their struggles and the focus on those struggles keeps the novel from feeling like a cheap action flick. It’s fun but also engaging. This is one I thoroughly enjoyed and I look forward to continuing the series!

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