Blog Tour Book Review: THE KNIGHTMARE ARCANIST by Shami Shovall

I received a review copy of the book as part of the blog tour in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinion.

Book cover next to the tour title on a swirl of flames
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 3 stars
Series: Yes - first book


Gravedigger Volke Savan wants nothing more than to be like his hero, the legendary magical swashbuckler, Gregory Ruma. First he needs to become an arcanist, someone capable of wielding magic, which requires bonding with a mythical creature. And he’ll take anything—a pegasus, a griffin, a ravenous hydra—maybe even a leviathan, like Ruma.

So when Volke stumbles across a knightmare, a creature made of shadow and terror, he has no reservations. But the knightmare knows a terrible secret: Ruma is a murderer out to spread corrupted magic throughout their island nation. He’s already killed a population of phoenixes and he intends to kill even more.

In order to protect his home, his adopted sister, and the girl he admires from afar, Volke will need to confront his hero, the Master Arcanist Gregory Ruma.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


This is a solid start to a fantasy series, but it lacked a certain sparkle.

KNIGHTMARE ARCANIST has a large world that’s bursting with potential. From the different magical creatures that bond with people, making them arcanists with specific magical powers, to the fact that the guildhouse is on the back of a giant turtle just swimming though the sea, there are fun little quirks throughout.

The book also sets up a world brimming with possibility for a large world as there are many adventures and countries hinted at. There’s certainly a lot left wide open at the end of this book. There are four books already out, and a fifth mentioned on Goodreads, so if you want a series to five into, this might be one for you!

The characters lack charisma – they’re just there and didn’t stand out among the many characters I read every year. There are six apprentices, but I’m afraid only four stuck in my head (and only then as their “tropes”: main character, non-blood sister who has ?something going on, the bully, the nerdy one).

The characters and their relationships didn’t feel very developed, and as such I struggled to care much about them. The non-blood sister in particular felt a little all over the place, her characterisation appearing to just switch part way through the book. This lead to a general ambivalence about their goals, and thus removed the tension from the book.

The prose also felt a little simplistic, like it was trying to hard to make sure I’d got certain things, rather than trusting the reader.

Would I read the next book? Probably – it’s one of those books that is a nice, easy thing to read when you’re not feeling like a long epic that needs lots of brain power. The story and world certainly shows that it has far more to offer.

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