manda's Reviews > Spellwright

Spellwright by Blake Charlton
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's review
Jun 01, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: fantasy, coulda-been-better, young-adult
Read in June, 2011

** spoiler alert ** I liked the idea built around this debut, where the system of magic marks it different from your average fantasy novel. It is set in a world where magic - or "text", as they call it - takes form in exactly that - woven words, paragraphs, thrown into the air.

The story follows Nicodemus Weal, an apprentice wizard, who suffers from cacography. His condition is similar to that of which we know as dyslexia; anything but simple texts are corrupted, or "mispelled" by his touch. Due to his mysterious parentage and a mark on his body, there are factions that mark him as either the Halcyon; the saviour against an impending apocalypse, or the very instigator of destruction itself.

And so Spellwright recounts Nic's self-discovery: the true nature of his birth and disability, his friends and foes, and his part in the setting-in-motion prophecy.

The premise itself was enchanting in its ways, and albeit being a nice, different read, Spellwright -- as I daresay every other book known to mankind -- does have its weaknesses.

I think my greatest complaint would be Charlton's constant dumping of information. Here is the mildest form I could find, written somewhere in the forty-fifth chapter:

"I would swear on the Creator's name to protect and help you in your struggle against the demons. Do you know what that means? For a deity to swear on the Creator's name?"
"It means you would be bound to your oath, that you could never break it."

Yes. Thank you for that rather soap-opera-ish exchange. As I said though, that was one of the mildest examples of infodumping I found throughout Spellwright. Most of the others were relayed through pages and pages of exposition, and of course, we also have the classroom explanations.

There is also this nasty habit that some books have of undermining their readers; at some points in this one, the writer is so afraid the reader missed or forgot something (or is downright too stupid to put two and two together), that he literally gives a recap to us via the characters, or have them force feed the conclusion to us.
One such example you can read for yourself in the forty-fourth chapter where, after a fight scene, the main protagonist has the following conversation with his tutor:

"And Deirdre is ... Typhon's avatar?"
"She didn't know." Nicodemus shoved his arm under the wizard's back.
"But how did you figure it out?" Shannon gasped as Nicodemus tried to lift him.
"Magister, now is not -"
"No ..." the old man said between rapid breaths. "You have to tell me."

Cue repetition/recap of all the important points that we've gathered from all previous forty-three chapters. Plus a bonus conclusion from the protag because hey, we're too dumb to put it together ourselves. --keep in mind this exchange was occurring whilst their main enemy was, at the moment, in the same room with them, battling their potential saviours.
And in the next - if not exact same - page, this intellectually undermining recap was interrupted only by the wizard literally asking (again) "But how do you know that?" and moments later "But why (...)?"
And once again, we're given a rundown of all the things we failed to catch with our own puny minds.

My third nitpicking would be the overall conclusion to the story. Oh don't get me wrong, it had its shock moments, it had its unexpected (?) twists (although it was largely predictable for me personally, as it takes quite a lot to surprise me); but I found the book could have finished two or three chapters shorter.
Upon reaching the climax, I find myself exhausted and at that point I just wanted the book to end - but was instead forced to trudge along a few more chapters (AND an epilogue! Hurray!), obviously setting itself up for a sequel.
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Candice T Thank you, thank you! I knew this book felt like a ball and chain instead of a joyous light read. You've done a great job of explaining why.

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