By Sebastian de Castell
This was such a fun series, I just loved every single moment of reading them. They are best described as a western with magic. Mostly I thought about them like the old spaghetti westerns from the 1960’s. (My husband was a fan of the Clint Eastwood ones, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and others, so I have seen a few of them.) Basically the movies are about a hero who rides into town and with tricks, deceit, many unexpected actions and sarcastic wit defeats the bad guys. To illustrate here is how Kellen wields his particular type of magic.
“I brought my hands up and made the somatic form with each hand: bottom two fingers pressed into the palm, for restraint; fore and middle fingers pointed straight out, the sign of flight; and thumb pointing to the heavens.” Queenslayer
Picture that for a moment and you will get what I’m talking about . Kellen, the hero of the story, is also considered an outlaw among his people and many others, and he has a price on his head, which keeps him dodging spells from bounty hunters through out the books. I loved Kellen from the start. He is clever and very bright. He worked really hard to become a mage, even though his magic was never really strong. He had a difficult relationship with his family, both his parents and his sister. His sarcastic wit and cleverness often got him into trouble, but it also got him out of quite a bit two.
“Carath moron!’ I shouted at the top of my lungs, aiming my fingers at Arc’aeon as if I’d really been casting the spell. The ‘moron’ part wasn’t necessary, but when you’re an outlaw with a price on your head, you take your fun wherever you can.” Queenslayer
Then there is Ferius Parfax. She is Kellen’s mentor and maetri, teacher, in the ways of the Argosi. She doesn’t let Kellen get away with much, but she also gives him the leeway to make his own mistakes and learn from them. She protects him fiercely often showing up just in the nick of time to save him from the trouble he has gotten himself into. I really liked the fact that the mentor was an older woman, you just don’t see that very often. Ferius isn’t in all of the books, but when she is around things are bound to be interesting.
“Ferius offered up a sardonic smile. “Not everybody hates you, kid. There are entire countries full of people who haven’t met you yet.” Charmcaster
Kellen’s ‘business partner’, Reichis is quite a wonderful character as well. He is a squirrel cat.
“If you’ve never seen a squirrel cat before, picture a mean-faced cat with a big bushy tail and thin furry flaps of skin between his front and back legs that let him glide through the air in a fashion that somehow looks both ridiculous and terrifying.” Shadowblack
Reichis is perhaps one of the best animal familiars ever thought of. He is funny, and just as sarcastic as Kellen, they are very well suited to each other. The funniest thing is no one else but Kellen can hear what Reichis says, which makes for some interesting interactions and comments. For all of his fierceness though, he is a bit of a cuddly cat who loves baths, and butter biscuits as well as eyeballs and ears.
Reichis shivered on my shoulder. ‘Because this place is giving me the creeps, and I’m a squirrel cat – normally we’re the ones giving other people the creeps.” Shadowblack
There are several different types of magic and many represent the culture they belong to. The Jan’Tep have the most complicated one and it is the one that our hero Kellen uses. Children are tattooed at a young age with six bands of magic that help them control and use their magic. The more bands you can access the stronger at magic you are. Kellen only has access to one type, the weakest one, but he uses it to ignite some powders that will kill a man if aimed right. There is also a type of magic curse called Shadowblack, which isn’t well explained until book four, but it is one of the reasons Kellen is hunted by his own people.
“We all got ugliness inside us, Kellen. Yours is worse? Then fight harder. Figure it out. But don’t you ever pretend you don’t have a choice.” Spellslinger
The Argosi Way is also something quite different and unique. They use playing cards to communicate with each other and in Ferius’s case, as weapons. They are loners and they also are the watchers and sort of the historians of this world. They stay in the shadows but help to steer events and outcomes for the better. They all follow paths that suit their personalities. Their ways are hard to sum up, especially because you learn more about them and their ways over the whole series.
“In any given situation, the Argosi consider the four ways: be like water, flowing around conflict. Follow the wind, letting it guide you to where you need to be. Stand firm like stone, holding to what you know is true. Or strike like thunder, without hesitation, without remorse.” Crownbreaker
I could probably go on for a lot longer about these books, they are just such fun. They are intended for young adults, but I really think that anyone who enjoys well done fantasy will like it as well. They are also part of the same world that this authors other series takes place in, just another part of it. I will be checking that series out as well.
“Like my father once said, everything is tricks with me. The problem with tricks, though, is that sometimes the most devastating trick is the one that’s been played on you” Shadowblack