Book Review: SPELLSLINGER by Sebastien de Castell

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: yes - first book



“There are three things that earn you a man’s name among the Jan’Tep. The first is to demonstrate the strength to defend your family. The second is to prove you can perform the high magic that defines our people. The third is simply to reach the age of sixteen. I was a few weeks shy of my birthday when I learned that I wouldn’t be doing any of those things.”

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…

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


SPELLSLINGER is a fun, quick read, bursting with witty characters and rapid pacing. The character dynamics – the family tensions and the self-serving nature of every character – was great. The talking shadow cat was my favourite, so snarky and with a clever come back for everything.

I loved how the focus was on the con-side of magic, how to outsmart and trick people stronger than you. Right from page one, and the first duel, Kellen is using his brain to overcome the brute force of magic. It was so clever and rather unique to have a main character not be singled out due to their impressive magic, but by pretending they have it. This made the book stand out from the crowd.

The world is interesting. I’m not quite sure if it’s meant to be this world in the future or another, but it didn’t matter. There is a ‘twist’ about the history that, which I wasn’t actively anticipating it, is a very common one in YA fantasy, Sci-Fi and dystopia. It felt like it undercut the world a little, by turning everything on its head.

The ending was a bit fast, and it felt as if things with Ra’meth (the main antagonist, because it was hard to work out who was the villain) were tied up a little too quickly. I wasn’t quite sure how that happened, how he was defeated. He’d been so opposing a figure, and then was out of the picture in a chapter. His sons got the real fight, using the semi-magic mixed with ‘chemistry’.

Overall, it’s a fun start of a series, and I’ll be interested to see where it goes next.

Read my reviews of other books by Sebastien de Castell:

Argosi (chronologically before this series):

Spellslinger (this series):

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