“Charmcaster”: just what does Kellen’s life spiral into?

Is this the first review of 2020? Sure seems like it! – Though I do think it’ll be the only one for January, sadly. It’s exam time again, and for a while I’ll have to leave you with my rambles about ‘Charmcaster’ only. And oh boy, are there things I want to share with you about this one book…

Remember where we left Kellen in ‘Shadowblack’? Yeah, you most probably don’t, because it’s been a while since I last recalled them… but in any case, the story in ‘Charmcaster’ picks up six months later.

We find Kellen, his Argosi mentor Ferius Parfax and the squirrel cat Reichis crossing a desert, headed for the city of Gitabria and wishing to protect its people from the Jan’Tep’s scheming. They don’t have it that easy, though – especially thanks to the fact that Kellen is an outlaw spellslinger with a bounty on his head and only a single mage band to let him use his magic. That only draws bounty hunters on his trail… one of which causes a lightning storm. A storm not meant for them.

It turns out the mage is being hunted by a group of religious zealots, the Berabesq Faithful – and our trio try to protect them. Ferius gets badly hurt in the process, and it turns out that the hunted mage is no-one else but Nephenia, Kellen’s old friend (and crush). After Nephenia has safely joined Kellen and his mentor and squirrel cat, the three stop at a Traveller’s saloon to have Ferius’s wounds treated… in the most unexpected way, with a wild combo of gambling and booze, and Ferius leaves the saloon with a discordance card.

Once Ferius is feeling better, she and the other three make their way to Gitabria’s capital, Cazaran. They crash into an exhibition of Gitabria’s newest inventions, and among them is namely the little mechanical bird, painted on the discordance card. As beautiful and fascinating as it is that such a delicate object can come to life (of course, with the help of magic), there is also reason to worry – like Ferius realises – that it could also be used as a deadly weapon in a war, which the card hints at. Of course, an invention such as this is impossible to be kept under wraps, and a few parties have found out about it. Once again, a person from the inventor’s family becomes the target… and Kellen has set his sights on rescuing them.

Much like it has been in the previous book, “Charmcaster” also begins with our main characters getting attacked, them going on an adventure, in which lies an important quest, and new lands and peoples and cultures get introduced to the story. While this could be kind of boring to some readers, I did not mind it at all. Though I can definitely say that the magic in “Charmcaster” lies in character development and in the ties the characters have wound to one another. A past get explained, and so does Nephenia’s sudden meeting with Kellen and his friends. Reichis and Ferius are the same old, a sarcastic thieving squirrel cat and a traveller with a past shrouded in mystery… though that mystery unveils. And there’s a lot going on with Kellen, too. Not only can we watch him grow up and make harder and more complicated choices, but the shadowblack takes an even stronger hold of him, changing his thoughts and from them – his entire world.

Kellen’s next adventures await… in ‘Charmcaster’.

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