SPFBO Finalist: Ruthless Magic by Megan Crewe

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Esme’s Thoughts

I was super nervous going into this because I’m not typically a YA/coming of age kind of person – however, I’m happy to say I liked this one. The story is fairly simple, a group of teenagers are taking their Exam after not being selected to move on with their magical education. The Exam in this world determines whether you get to keep your magical powers or not. Upon graduating high school, teens are either selected to go to the academy, or they are “dulled”. Being dulled doesn’t mean that they lose their powers entirely, but they are much less potent. There is a chance to redeem yourself if you haven’t been Chosen, however, and the dangerous Exam the students take is there so they can prove their mettle. Some students don’t return from the Exam, and if you fail it you’re automatically dulled, because of that it’s considered a last-ditch resort. The MC and his group of friends now have to try and pass, and it’s full of seemingly random perils that all come together in the end for a twist.

The main characters are young, but they aren’t whiny or angsty which is why I think this one clicked. I liked seeing diversity in the characters with both an LGBT side character and a Hispanic main character – I don’t see either of those represented often in fantasy. This was a quick book that I read in a sitting, the writing was straight forward and sped the story along, so it earned high marks in pacing. There was a romance in this I didn’t hate, so that’s a plus for me – romances are a big hit and miss category for me. The main character in this is genuinely a good person and that makes it so much easier to relate to and get behind from early on. I thought the world building was a bit on the lighter side, most of the book was focused on taking the Exam and not so much about the world at large. Although the writing was well done, it wasn’t anything that made it stand out – and because of things like that, it got an overall score of 7.7/10. Overall this is a fun book for anyone looking for a lot of magic in an urban setting.


Coffee’s Thoughts

This was a quick, fun read that reminded me of a magical (and slightly less dark) version of the Hunger Games. The two main POVs are a boy from a wealthy family of the Old Magic elite social class who has very little magical talent and a hispanic girl with incredible magical talent who’s discriminated against by the Confederation. They’re instantly likable and easy to relate to, which I appreciated.

There wasn’t much to the story that stood out as all that unique. There’s a lot of Capital Word worldbuilding and the tried-and-true plot of young adults duking it out in a grand competition. For some reason everyone swears by the names of Greek gods and goddesses, which is never explained but kind of memorable. That said, everything was written very well and I was invested in the characters’ fates. The main romance was handled well and there was very little undeserved angst.

Overall, I really liked this one. It was a little predictable but very fun, which is a tradeoff I’ll take any day. I think fans of the Hunger Games will find a lot to enjoy in Ruthless Magic.


Kristen’s Thoughts:

This was a fairly fast-paced novel, which kept my interest well into the wee hours of the morning. It’s well written and had characters that I definitely cheered for. Finn is good people, especially given that he’s willing to risk his life and his magical skill in order to prove himself worthy of it in the first place. Rocío was easy to cheer for as well. I wanted her to win all the things and prove the Confederation wrong about who is worthy and who isn’t.

The Confederation and their Examiners who are giving this test started out as the obvious antagonist but as the story went on and the Exam became more and more dangerous, the institution became almost comically evil. It has this in common with the Hunger Games, except that this book takes place in more-or-less our world in our time, so, it went a little more over-the-top than I thought was necessary to get the point across that the Confed are monstrous and must be stopped.

The magic system was interesting. It seems to be based largely around music or prose, but it varies in language from person to person, depending on what they’ve learned over the years.

It had some romance in it, too, which was rather adorable at times. Finn and Rocío are cute together, and their cooperation to get through the exam despite being from different backgrounds was a nice counter to some of the more horrible events that began to happen as the book went on. I’m interested to see where this story goes past this novel, so here’s hoping that reading the sequel is in my future at some point.



  • Esme: 7.7/10
  • Coffee: 7.25/10
  • Kristen: 7.0/10

Final Score: 7.3/10 or 7.5/10 for SPFBO

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