I have to start off this review by letting you all know that Sebastien de Castell is my favorite author, hands down. His writing is so beautiful, his banter leaves my sides hurting from laughter, his characters always find a way to weasel themselves into my heart, and his fantasy stories are a tier above anything else out there right now. He is such a clever and witty writer, and his books are exactly what I want and look for in my fantasy. Oh, and I get a little fangirly when I talk about him and his Greatcoats.
So when I found out he was going to be writing a YA series, I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist picking it up. I also knew after page one, and seeing that Kellen is a mini Falcio, that I would completely fall in love with it.
In Kellen’s clan there are two types of people:
➽ Jan’Tep – People that can wield magical powers.
➽ Sha’Tep – People that have failed their mage trials, have none or minimal magic powers, and are now servants to the Jan’Tep. That might mean being a servant in the home of a Jan’Tep family, or it might mean life forced to spend your days mining in the mines.
Our main protagonist, Kellen, comes from one of the most powerful mage bloodlines in his clan. His father is renowned and feared by everyone, because he is so powerful. His mother is one of the most gifted healers ever known. His sister is the best and most magical student in his school, and she’s only thirteen. Kellen isn’t as lucky.
“No one thought that I’d been clever or brave, not even my own father. All that mattered was that my magic was weak.”
In this world all children have six tattooed bands on their arms that need to spark and then that child will be able to wield that type of magic. Some only spark one band, many spark two bands, but only the most powerful are able to spark all six. Regardless of how many an individual is able to spark; you have to pass all four trials to become a Jan’Tep! And unfortunately Kellen hasn’t been able to spark any of the bands, and his sixteenth birthday, and the deadline to complete his trials in order to become a Jan’Tep are closely approaching.
➽ Iron – Shields and other protective magic.
➽ Ember – Fire and lighting magic.
➽ Silk – Mind manipulation powers and magic.
➽ Sand – Seeing afar and secret knowledge magic.
➽ Blood – Physical manipulation magic.
➽ Breath – Wind and air magic.
➽ Shadow – Magic of emptiness, of the void, and of all things demonic.
Shadow is the band that the children do not have, and that’s because shadow is believed to be cursed and to drive the individual insane, while also encouraging them to perform evil acts. When the shadow decides to show in an individual, it doesn’t spark a band, but a blackness will show. These mages are called Shadowblacks and are hunted and killed.
Kellen is so scared that he is going to be forced to become a Sha’Tep and never have the magical abilities that everyone else seems to have. He also is constantly dealing with feeling like a disgrace to his families’ name, because it feels like he will never be able to be what his family wants him to be. That is, until Ferius Parfax wonders into his town, and shows him that he can be anything he wants to be.
“Life’s a curse, kid. Love is the cure.”
Ferius is an Argosi, who draws maps of people and their cultures. Many believe they travel to witness great events. In true Sebastien de Castell fashion, I fell in love with so many of these characters, but Ferius completely stole my heart. Ferius is such a strong female lead, and there is so much more I want and need to know about her. Also, she wields a deck of cards. Yeah, think Gambit from X-Men and Twisted Fate from League of Legends, except tarot cards. I honestly want to be Ferius Parfax when I grow up.
“The world is a big and dangerous place and there’s more darkness filling it than you’ll ever know. Only one thing fights that –men and women who don’t walk away from their debts. Pick a card now, Kellen, because I won’t ask again.”
The Jan’Tep people also live in fear of another culture of magical people, even though they have been dead for a long time. The Jan’Tep people are taught about a war that involved them and the Mahdek, who would summon demons and commit other evil acts. You know, like Shadowblacks. The Mahdek people also would use these
adorable very vicious squirrel-cats, actually named/called nekheks, to help them fight, so the Jan’Tep people are also very afraid of them, too!
One particular squirrel-cat ends up playing a major role in this story, and his name is Reichis! I couldn’t help but picture Reichis as Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy, even though I know he’s not a raccoon, but his personality is so reminiscent. Seriously, such an amazing character. I would completely read a whole book surrounding him and his family. Also, if I wasn’t completely sure about giving this story five stars before, Reichis’ mother completely sealed the deal.
Also, I want to state a trigger warning for animal cruelty/abuse. This is normally a big problem for me, and it didn’t bother me too badly in this book, but that’s not to say that it won’t bother you. This book has a light amount of it, and nothing too graphic, but it is in a few scenes and I feel like it is very important to at least warn you guys.
Kellen was so focused on trying to pass his mage trials and how not to be an embarrassment to his family, until some Jan’Tep people start losing their powers and many members of the clan begin to blame the mysterious Argosi woman who has just recently come to town. Which means Kellen is forced to figure out what really is happening to his people, while also trying to figure out who he really is himself.
“I’m afraid there is a great deal of difference between not doing something and not being responsible for it.”
This story is so unique, the writing is so superb, and the message of this story is so very important. Accepting who you are is sometimes the hardest battle we will fight in this life, and seeing Kellen become who he is and not what others expect him to, whether it’s his family or the world, is something so beautiful that I don’t have words for.
“Because that card might just change the world.”
Thank you again, Sebastien de Castell, for another book that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I’m not sure what the world has done to deserve your stories, but I am so very thankful for them.