Like most my batch this year, I went into this cold without reading the blurb. Based on the cover I thought it might be a YA magic school kind of book, and I got something kind of similar in that it’s a coming of age story. I think the MCs here are like 17ish. In this world there are Speakers and there are Readers. Those who can perform magic are strictly forbidden from reading the spells as some kind of checks and balances on power. Speakers aren’t allowed to talk unless directly addressed because some will fear they’re speaking a spell without permission. The fear of magic casters has skewed the checks and balances into enslavement of the magic users. They can and have been executed for suspicion of knowing how to read. In this world there aren’t necessarily heirs to kingdoms in the traditional sense, there are heirs to libraries. Words are literally power here, and the more you have the better off your family and station.
So our MC, Baz, is a slave in a Library and he gets roped into going on a journey with the heir to the library, Del. There’s a coming of age ritual where young men and women are sent out to search the ruins for lost spell books to bring back home, lending more power to their family and library. Most of the time it’s unsuccessful venture and it’s just basically a ritual at this point. However, Baz and the heir, Del, have to make their way into the ruins, come back alive, and hopefully with some more spells.
This is a heavy magic centered book, with lots of magic taking up page time, and a huge part in the culture and world building. The prologue hinted at book dragons which do come back and make an appearance later on in the story, at first I was excited about that, but very quickly the way the dialogue worked for the book dragon got on my last nerve. It repeats the last word of most of its sentences — of its sentences. And so I’d be reading and then re-reading the same dialogue — the same dialogue. The way he moved and behaved was really neat, though. It reminded me a bit of the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland. The bookdragon kind of hovers in mid air and will talk to you upside down and speaking in riddles. I also loved the “wyrms” that spoke in old languages of destruction and fire, that was neat. I’d say my biggest complaint about the world building would be the tendency to info dump rather than having it more naturally introduced. I find this is a pretty common trope in YA where education is a thing, you get to learn about the world as the character does and it just doesn’t usually work for me. However, the ideas and concepts behind this world were really engaging, I think most people with a love of books and old school magic spells would enjoy the overall ideas put forth in this one. I would definitely see myself liking this a lot back when I read a lot of YA.
There is a major theme here of enemies to friends, given the giant gap in social standing between two of the main characters it lead to a natural foil relationship. Not to mention that Baz’s older brother was severely punished for learning how to read, and his sentence was carried out by Del and his bodyguard, Rox.
The writing was pretty fluid, I was able to get through this story quickly without hitting passages that rubbed me wrong, or dialogue that was poorly written. Lol, however, as with most instances of fake cursing it really got under my skin. “Torn pages” being used as a curse definitely felt Sanderson-esque. I did however find people who learned how to read being called a “cuss” made sense, and didn’t feel as awkward. It’s a four letter word that’s quick and easy to throw at someone, rather than “torn pages”. This sort of thing along with more straight forward prose style, a glaring class disparity in society as a whole, and enemies to friends theme really brought home some Sanderson feels.
Overall, I would recommend this to people who like the “going on an adventure” trope, coming of age, enemies to friends, and lots of magic.
- Plot: 11/15
- Characters: 11.5/15
- World Building: 12.5/15
- Writing: 11/15
- Pacing: 11/15
- Originality: 10/15
- Enjoyment: 6.5/10
Final Score: 73.5/100