If you’re a fan of interesting and unique magic systems, House of Blades will appeal to you.
House of Blades is the first book in Will Wight’s Traveler's Gate series. It’s one part coming-of-age tale, one part twisted magic school story, and one part prophecy novel - but with a twist. Much of it works very well, though there are a couple weaknesses in the midst of that.
First off, and this will come as no surprise if you’ve read any of Wight’s other works, the magic in this book is nuanced, fun, and unique. Magic users gain their power through their connection to Territories. These Territories are sort of pocket dimensions that are accessible only via portals that people connected to that Territory can open. Also, most of those Territories are trying to kill you, so… learn quick. It’s certainly a unique magic system and it helps to keep the tension high. Some Territories are more suited to battle, while others are more suited to healing, and probably other tasks as well. The whole concept is fun and the novel is worth reading for the magic system alone. It’s not the only reason to read, however. The pacing also worked well for me. There isn’t a ton of downtime, and while the story does take a few chapters to really kick in, those chapters felt like natural setup and progression, not boring filler. There are also some hints of a fascinating political system tied to the magic system and how much one has progressed through their Territory. Wight also plays a little bit with the ever-popular prophecy trope in fantasy. One of the characters is the prophesied champion, but the story really follows The Other Guy™, the one that isn’t part of the prophecy, isn’t fated to defeat the big bad guy. That actually makes the story far more interesting and given the ending to this novel I’m very curious to see where things go in book two.
Unfortunately, there are a couple things that really didn’t work for me. One of those is the characters. It isn’t that they’re poorly written or uninteresting. Rather, both Alin and Simon are sort of one dimensional, laser focused on the tasks that the plot has assigned them. While that keeps the action moving, it makes them seem almost caricatures, rather than people. It also feels like their progression comes too quickly and perhaps too easily. This almost cheapens what they do go through. Leah, on the other hand, is a far more multifaceted character with complex motivations and I particularly enjoyed reading her sections. I’m very interested to see where her character arc goes. In addition to these issues, I felt like a couple sections of the story could have benefited from just a little more setup or explanation. This is not a long book, and the pacing is tight, but I felt like that worked against it in one or two spots.
If you’re a fan of interesting and unique magic systems, House of Blades will appeal to you. I’m looking forward to seeing where book two heads.
Review by Calvin Park
7.5/10 from 1 reviews
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