SPFBO 5 Finalist Review: Beggar’s Rebellion by Levi Jacobs

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As stated in previous reviews, this is only my opinion and I only count for half of Superstardrifter’s score. When Kristen’s review comes in we will post our official score and thoughts on her blog.

When we are introduced to the first main character, Ella, she had been living on a boat and working as an off-the-books accountant (known as a Calculor in this world) for some time. Living and working on a boat had been working out great for her since she is trying to conceal her identity, and she has no legal license to be a Calculor. She could face charges if caught. Her clients are short term since they get on and off the boat within a few weeks and generally don’t have contact with her again. Magic is a persistent presence in this world, it’s not some rarity with only a few select people having magic. It’s divided into different groups and categories making it feel very reminiscent of a Sanderson novel. Ella is a “timeslip” and has the ability to slow time – and with that power she can inflict lots of damage before people can stop her.  In order to use these powers, she needs access to a cave moss known as yura which is fairly expensive. Things go wrong on the boat (as they must to propel the story), and she ends up “working” for a man named Ordil and ends up more of a slave. She knew going into it he was a sleazy person but did not anticipate just how sleazy he really was, and ends up in a very difficult situation. 

The other POV is a young man named Tai who lives on the streets. He’s a misfit type with a rare category of magic that can get out of his control quickly, he can unintentionally kill people around him if he doesn’t keep himself in check, so he chooses never to use it. By day he and the kids are black market yura sellers. Their goal is to earn enough money to relocate to another city to begin new lies. Of course, that’s not at all what happens and he finds himself wrapped up in a potential rebellion – as the title of the book suggests. Things definitely started to be more interesting after the rebel group finds him and tries to recruit him. 

I felt that the world-building was the book’s biggest strength. My preferences lean towards books with a categorical magic system like Sanderson’s series, and this book definitely is reminiscent of that. There are Timeslips that can slow time, Brawlers who are good at fighting and have increased strength, Mindseyes that can read minds, Wafters who can fly etc etc. From early on in the book you’re introduced to different cultures and cities that all have their own unique characteristics. At times I found this to be done with a little too much exposition, but that’s more of a writing nitpick than a world-building flaw. Many people have what’s known as a “Voice” in their head which is sort of like the soul of an ancestor that lives in people’s minds. Both of the main characters have one and they provide fascinating foils to the personalities of the main characters. They tend to get into arguments with their Voices and it makes it feel like there are four main characters rather than two. 

For me, personally, the weakest part of the book was the actual prose itself. There were many instances where commas were missing, in the wrong place, missing quotation marks, unclear phrasing, or awkward sentence structure. It wasn’t terrible, I don’t mean to imply this was “unreadable” but the writing wasn’t a highlight for me. As a personal preference, I tend to get annoyed with in-world curse words … and there are a LOT of fake curse words in this one. My tolerance of fake cursing varies by what kind it is, I don’t tend to mind using in-world Gods as a curse, or nonsensical words that have no meaning in English … but I get really annoyed by curse words that are one-to-one replacement words, or words that have meaning in English. “Scatter you, scatter this, motherscatterer, mecking, meckstain, fishmeck, elkmeck” were a little too much for me. What confused me a little bit is that a small number of real curse words made it in, but their usage didn’t make sense. One of the lines in the book was, “Don’t be an asswater”. Had the line been something like, “This taste like asswater”, it would have worked for me, but don’t be an asswater? Anyway. 

This one had a bit of a slower start and could have been a little smoother as far as the pace was concerned. There were parts that dragged and parts that felt a bit rushed, but nothing so much that I wanted to put it down. That said, since the prose was more on the straightforward side I did get through this one quickly despite some slower sections. 

One thing that can drag down my enjoyment of a book is when one POV gets more page time than another. It can cause a weird ebb and flow where one story gets more time than another and it feels lopsided. The two MC’s were split more or less equally which allowed me to get equally invested in their arcs. I also felt like I got to know Ella well enough before the characters switch for the first time which is very helpful for me. If POV’s switch too early and I don’t feel like I’ve got a good grasp on who the first character is, things can get off to a rocky start. 

The two characters definitely had their own motivations, voices, and personalities so the character section is going to get decent marks. The two are sort of similar because they are both on the younger side, both a touch impulsive, and both a bit naive about certain things. However, that’s really where the similarities stop. The two come from very different worlds and it’s shaped them into very different people. I was equally invested in both of their arcs so I wasn’t waiting for my “favorite” character to come back while I slogged through the chapters of a character I didn’t like. I did find that Tai could annoy me a bit, the decisions he makes aren’t always the best ones which can be agitating, but I found his storyline was interesting enough where I still liked his chapters. I wasn’t a huge fan of the villains in this book, Ordil in particular just seemed to be bad because he was bad without much explanation- those people exist, but in books I tend to prefer a more well-rounded villain. 

All things considered, I enjoyed the read but I think that perhaps others would enjoy it even more than myself. I have odd ticks that won’t apply to many readers (like the fake cursing) and I absolutely think this book has appeal to people who like Sanderson-esque writing style, characters, and world-building. 


  • Plot: 10/15
  • Characters: 12/15
  • World-Building: 13.5/15 
  • Writing: 10.5/15
  • Pacing: 9/15
  • Originality: 11/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 6/10

Final Score: 72/100 or 7.2/10 for SPFBO