Esmes Indie Highlights/SPFBO: The Zero Blessing by Christopher Nuttall

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This is part of Fantasy Factions grouping and doesn’t have any feedback so far.  YA is a genre I struggle with, so when I find one I like I take note. It was a fun light book, I enjoyed it enough to get the sequel and will probably get around to when I’m done with all these SPFBO books.


The Short Pitch:

This is a YA book centering around a magic school, I see a lot of requests for magical training and magic schools, so if you’re one of those people this will scratch that itch hard. But, there’s a twist in that the main character is a zero, she has no magic and she’s trying to make by in a rather harsh scholastic setting.


Plot:

Magic is a big presence in this world, most people are able to do at least basic spells, while more powerful sorcerers are greatly feared and respected. The book opens with a girl talking about her family, and how she and her triplet sisters are all very different. It’s widely believed that children that are twins or triplets are more magically potent than those who aren’t. The main character comes from a noble house and both of her parents are powerful sorcerers, it was assumed that their triplets would be some of the most potent magic wielders the world has seen in a long time.

However, time came and went and the main character never developed any powers, she was treated horribly by her two sisters. Her father turned a blind eye to the hexes and curses because he hoped it would spark Cat’s powers, but it didn’t.

Her parents make a decision to send her to a magical academy anyway, Judes, which is one of the most elite magical academies there are in the realm. Cat is devastated that she has to go because she’s worried she will be exposed as a “zero” and cast out of the school in disgrace.

The academy she goes to is super strict, it felt like every professor with the exception of a few were extremely rigid with their rules and quick to dole out punishments. Her classmates aren’t much better, her sisters and leaders of other cliques are always looking for a way to mess with her and jinx her if they can, leaving Cat as a frog or frozen in place unable to escape. Think Malfoy and Harry Potter, there are a lot of similar antics. She does befriend a common born girl named Rose, and I enjoyed their friendship – I see a lot of requests for strong female friendships and this would absolutely qualify.

The rest of the plot is focused on learning magic, and some ancient secrets that have been lost for a thousand years. It was fun learning the ways magic can and can’t be used, and seeing all the different sorts of experiments she performed.


Characters:

  • Cat is the main character and this is a single POV book, so we get to see a lot about her. She starts off bitter and angry character. She’s been tormented for years on end by her sisters, and just as she thought her sisters would be sent away to magic school, and she would stay at home and get a reprieve – she’s thrust right into the thick of it at the magic academy. She’s quick to anger, snapping at both teachers and students, including those who are being nice to her. Through the course of the book she mellows out, makes friends, and finds ways to adapt. There was a lot of character growth with her and it was nice to see that, by the end of the book much had changed about her personality and views. If I didn’t know she was 12, I would have placed her age around 16 years old. I don’t tend to connect well with less mature and younger characters, so for me her being mature for her age was a plus.
  • Rose is her friend and a common born person with a lot of potential. She has a lot riding on staying at school and graduating, if she gets expelled or flunks out her family loses the money and they could end up in debtors prisons. She’s smart and quick to learn and is a pretty good friend to Cat.
  • Alana and Bella  – the two sisters who were relentless about torturing Cat during their childhood. Alana is by far the worse of the two, naturally cruel and more often than not the cause of Cat’s problems. Bella is lazy and although she’s not particularly nice to Cat, she doesn’t seem to actively seek out trouble with her either.

There are a host of professors and students but these are the main players.


World Building:

Supposedly anyone is supposed to be able to touch magic, or at least sense it, and it’s almost unheard of for someone to be a true ‘zero’. Cat’s father had searched old records and come up short for an explanation for Cat.

An Object of Power is an artifact that never loses it’s power, while a Device of Power is something that degrades over time. The ability to make Objects of Power has been lost to time, everyone follows very specific instructions, but no matter what they do it never works.

It sounds like there are elves, unicorns, dragons and other magical beings/creatures but they didn’t make an appearance in the book, outside of dragon scales being used in potions.

Forgery is one of the few things that Cat can do well because most of it doesn’t require magic, while other things like brewing potions does. Cat can put all the ingredients into the pot and follow instructions, but can’t push the magic to make it flow and turn into a proper potion.

Left Handed/dark magic is highly illegal and if you’re caught using it it’s likely an execution sentence. There are a few spells that are illegal, but most dark magic starts with legal spells with nefarious intent.

 


Pacing/Prose/Tone:

This was a lighter book, and although there wasn’t much “action” there was a lot going on with world building and learning how the magic system works, it kept me turning pages fairly quickly.

It was cleanly written, and obviously since it’s YA there wasn’t much of any cursing.

In the beginning when Cat was still get bullied frequently without much hope of saving herself the tone was a little bleaker, but she does learn how to adapt and defend herself and the tone gets lighter and a bit more mysterious with lots of unexplained things happening to the main character.


Audience

  • single pov
  • ya
  • female pov
  • magic school
  • female friendship
  • quick reads
  • magic training
  • underdog pov

 

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