Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review: Spellwright

by Blake Charlton

Spellwright is Blake Charlton’s debut novel.  I first heard about this book on the blogsphere, and decided to see what all the fuss was about.  The plot is a fairly straightforward coming-of-age story, wizard style.  There are even prophecies of impending doom, including a savior who will stave off said doom.   Of course, the problem with having prophesized saviors is recognizing them when they appear, and how do you deal with them when they aren’t quiet what you expect?

The protagonist is Nicodemus, an apprentice wizard at a small and very out of the way school.  Nicodemus, however, has a major flaw for not only his world, but for his ability to be a wizard, and its here that Charlton really shines.  In his world, words are magic.  There are normal, non-magical languages that non-wizards work with, and a multitude of magical languages that magic users work in.  Now, you’re probably thinking that this isn’t so original, remembering your average DnD type wizard who carts around a book of magic spells that he spouts off whenever he needs something.  In that case, the wizard is supplying the magic and the words he speaks are providing guidelines for the magic to follow.  In Spellwright, the words provide the magic and the wizard shapes the words in such a way as to create the blueprint for the magic to follow by writing the words down and then casting the words themselves.  So being able to spell correctly, understand how the language you’re working in gets put together and avoiding such faux pas as misplaced metaphors dictates your ability to cast successful spells.  Now imagine, that even though you have the affinity for magic languages, even though you can break down language and know where different words come from and all their different meanings, you’re dyslexic.  You’re constantly misspelling everything, which causes your spells to either fail entirely, or worse, backfire in dangerous ways.  Worse, by your very touch you can cause existing spells, like friendly constructs, to become misspelled.  This is Nicodemus’ problem.

Aside from the magic system, the plot itself is fairly humdrum and mostly predictable.  Charlton’s characterizations could use some work, but they are by no means bad.  The real joy to this book is the magic system, because it’s so fundamentally different from anything else currently published.  This book is obviously the start of a larger end-of-the-world tale, and I’m looking forward to seeing Charlton grow a writer and to see how he fleshes out his world building.


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