If you’re wondering how I can post two review in two days, I finished Spellwright days after City of Ruin. 🙂
The first time I heard of Spellwright was on a weekend in August 2009 via Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist; I read the blurb and immediately wanted to read the book. I had to wait a while, though, but a couple of months ago Blake sent me an a couple of other reviewer’s a PDF of Spellwright. 🙂
The first thing that grabbed me about the novel was the absolutely brilliant opening line. It’s the kind of novel-opener that grabs you by the short and curlies and absolutely demands that you continue reading (which I did), and here’s the opening line for you:
“The grammarian was choking to death on her own words.”
Damn, what a line! It’s the kind of line that every writer wishes he can come up with – it focuses you on the plight of a character, makes you curious about what position the character has in the story, and makes you wonder just what the hell is happening; absolutely brilliant. Why am I focusing on this? Well, I’m still busy doing a Creative Writing Course with Random House South Africa and GetSmarter, and one of the modules focused on the opening lines of novels and how to grab the reader’s attention; Blake Charlton grabbed me, for sure, incredible opening line!
Now, the next thing that grabbed my attention was the ease with which Blake pulled me into the world he had created; his writing style was absolutely smooth, with excellent descriptions of the massive Starhaven (the agglomeration of buildings in which most of the tale takes place) and the characters populating it; not only was it easy for my mind to conjure the images of the corridors, bridges, spires and rooms, but the characters were immediately vivid and full of life; not only the main protagonist, Nicodemus, but every character, even the walk-on’s. That said, there were very few characters that didn’t have an important role in the tale – every character served to propel the tale onwards by their personalities, actions and thoughts.
Next up, the plot: Spellwright, in my opinion, is basically about a young man, crippled in a manner that sets him apart from everyone else around him, being forced into events that could perhaps give him a way out and a reason to be proud of himself. This kind of storyline speaks to a massive amount of people, and I’ll bet that every person who reads Spellwright will be able to see themselves, in some way, in Nicodemus. I was able to really put myself in Nicodemus’ shoes and not only experience his world but really understand his thoughts, opinions and actions; there were, of course, times when I didn’t agree with Nicodemus, but that made the tale even better for me – it’s absolutely normal to sympathize with someone while wishing they would take that path instead of this one. I’ll admit, too, that Nicodemus did irritate me – his habit of cursing out loud became a bit tedious, and I found myself skipping most of these outbursts.
Blake also brings in tried and word-out Fantasy tropes such a Prophecies, destined saviors, and the like, but I thought he managed to give us fresh spins on these – the prophecies are intimately connected to the magic of the world and the ‘savior’ will definitely surprise you. 🙂
Now onto the magic system: it’s F-ing awesome. The magic that Blake has created joins my top-magic list, along with the Steven Erikson’s / Ian C Esslemont’s Warrens and Robert Jordan’s Power. It’s incredibly well thought out, richly detailed, and, most importantly, is a pivotal part of the plot – not only does it enrich the plot by offering up obstacles and boons to the characters, but much of the plot hinges on the magic – it’s great to see this, because in too many Fantasy novels magic is cool and epic and yes, still a part of the plot, but in most cases, not as intimately as in Spellwright. Sure, the big names know this is important and make sure that their magic conforms to this, but many others do not. I found the magic easy to understand and loved every instance of it; there’s something magical about experiencing a magic-system based on words and language. 🙂
I’m definitely a huge fan of Blake and his work now – not only did I really enjoy the tale he wrote, the characters he used to immerse us in the world he created and his amazing magic system, but I feel that he’s written an extremely strong debut that will appeal to many readers, not only fans of Fantasy. He’s managed to set things up nicely for Spellbound, Book 2 in the Spellwright Trilogy, and I definitely can’t wait to enter Nicodemus’ world again!
8 / 10
Spellwright will be published in the UK on the 27th of May, and on the 2nd of March in the US; it will be available in South Africa very soon (I’ll keep you up to date on exactly when), so be sure to head over to your nearest Exclusive Books and order your copy; Jonathan Ball Publishers are the guys who are bringing Spellwright to our shores. 🙂