Monday, September 3, 2018

Double Review: Spellslinger & Shadowblack by Sebastien de Castell

In contrast to most people, I don't tend to read books of the same series one after another. There's no real reason for this other than I just have a short attention span and always want to read all the other books and don't want to overwhelm myself too much with one particular world or charactrs. That being said, I had both Spellslinger and Shadowblack in my possession and had so much fun with Spellslinger that I had to pick up Shadowblack right after to see what would go down next.

Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell
Orbit, 2018
Paperback. 432 pages.

About Spellslinger:
"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..."

I've been hearing great things about Spellslinger for quite a while now, so I was thrilled to finally have a chance to dive in and check it out for myself. This was a really engaging and high-action book that I think did a great job of introducing to both the world and the magic system of the series. Although Spellslinger seems as if it is going to follow typical fantasy tropes and stereotypical characters, it swaps everything around and instead brings something new to the table. It's unpredictability is what sets this book apart and makes it hard to put down.

I appreciate how sassy the protagonist, Kellen, is, especially because he is fully aware of the skills that he lacks and that he is decidedly not the most powerful person out there. He tries instead to use his wit and other natural abilities to be equal to other magic-users--something that doesn't always work out for him, though you have to give the kid credit for trying. Despite this, Kellen still has a lot of motivation to keep going and not give up achieving his goals. Things in this book do not go Kellen's way most of the time, but he manages to adapt and follow what he believes is the right path, all which makes him a compelling character to follow.

Then we have my absolute favorite character, Ferius, who is everything and who I feel really saved this book from being more on the mediocre side. She gets her own five stars just for being her and bringing so much life to the story. I was worried at first that she would fall into a certain stereotype (think Lila Bard), but I found her to be wholly unique and stand apart from others. I loved her bold remarks, her 'can't-be-bothered' personality, her playing cards and usage of them, and her general confidence.

Although I enjoyed this book and most of its main characters, I can't say it was exceptionally special to me. The non-main characters did not appeal to me at all (I could not stand Kellen's sister, even when she was 'helping' him) and I felt that they lacked much depth to their personalities. I also felt that the 'bad' characters were not all that interesting and didn't seem to always have great reasoning for things they did, and same goes for characters that sort of turn bad as the stories progresses. On the positive side, it is apparent that Castell is a talented writer and has a knack for pacing, because I felt that this book moved at a consistent pace that matched the narrative.

Spellslinger is a really fun adventure that I would definitely recommend to people, but it's not something I'd count as a favorite, and that's okay. Overall, I've given Spellslinger three-and-a-half stars. This is a really solid book that, as I said, I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone looking for some sass and a good time.

Buy the book: Amazon Book Depository

Shadowblack by Sebastien de Castell
Orbit, 2018
Paperback. 384 pages.

(If you haven't read the first book, you might want to skip this review. Although there are no major intentional spoilers, certain plot points might give away plot points and events from the first book.) Kellen and Ferius are back to wreak some havoc along with Reichis, the squirrel cat that became semi-bonded to Kellen in the first book and who provides additional endless entertainment throughout the story.

In Shadowblack, we get to explore a lot more of the world introduced in Spellslinger, as well as meet new and interesting characters and learn more about the history of both the Jan'Tep (Kellen's people) and other groups of people that were mentioned in Spellslinger. The magic system remains an exceptionally interesting component of this book, and I continue to find myself interested in learning more about it at every opportunity. I have been extra interested in the whole Shadowblack situation and how that magic works, though I'm still not entirely sure I'm following the entire situation.

Kellen continues to grow in this book in ways that he didn't in Spellslinger, and I love that he is finally coming into himself and figuring out who he is. He's a bit stubborn at times, but it's usually because he just wants to do what is right and not hurt anyone, so it's more of a good stubborn than a bad one. He also continues to lean  how to use what magical powers he has (which are small) and also how to better use his own abilities to get himself out of sticky situations.

Reichis and Ferius are both highlights of this book and once again have some incredible dialogue and banter, both with themselves and others. Ferius' role didn't seem to be quite as big at times in this book, but she was still present for much of the action. Reichis begins to have a more developed personality and we see a few more sides of him, though he remains the lovable, ferocious creature that he is. In addition, we are introduced to a few new prominent characters that bring additional intrigue and excitement to the story.

I enjoyed Shadowblack more than Spellslinger, but there is still something about this series that just doesn't fully grab me. As exciting and fun as it is, it still doesn't stand out to me. Despite this, the voice is fun and clever, which makes this an engaging novel to read. I completely understand why people love these books so much, I'm just not sure that they are for me. The dialogue can be extremely witty and clever, but it can also feel a bit cliche'd and uninspired at times as well. As for my feelings of the book as a whole, they are much the same as they were for Spellslinger: i's still a really fun, exciting story that I've enjoyed reading and will continue to read, but it's not something to add to my favorites.

Overall, I've given Shadowblack three-and-three-quarter stars! I look forward to reading the next book, Charmcaster, when it comes out later this year!

Buy the book:  Amazon | Book Depository

*I received copies of Spellslinger and Shadowblack courtesy of Orbit in exchange for an honest review. This has noe ffect on my rating of the book. Huge thanks!*

Spellslinger  Shadowblack
(because I really love the UK covers also)


  1. ok ive only ever seen the UK covers before and i love them but i also reallyliked yours too.
    i kept being really tempted by this series at work, im glad you likedit.

    1. I know, both cover sets are great (and so different!)! I hope you like them if you give them a shot!

  2. I loved Spellslinger and I hope to read Shadowblack soon, but I do know what you mean about the characters. I adore Reichis and Ferius but the other characters aren't done as well.

    1. Yeah, that's a disappointing aspect for sure. But the rest of the books are really enjoyable, so that sort of makes up for it! :) I hope you enjoy Shadowblack!