Mar. 7th, 2010

porphyrin: (Default)
All right, I confess:

If the author hadn't been in the medical field, I likely wouldn't have picked this book up. If the author hadn't had the interesting and varied history he'd had before medical school, I wouldn't have read it immediately*.

Now I'd better stop paying so much attention to bio blurbs on back covers and websites, because it occurs to me I may be missing quite a bit of Good Fun.

And Good Fun is the catchphrase for this book. There's this crazy joy that comes through the pages-- the narrative fairly bounces along, giving me a sense that the author *really enjoyed* creating this world, this magic system, this book. There's a sense of authority to the magic system, and a real depth to some of the implications.

So, the story line goes like this: Nicodemus, a 'cacographer' (or dyslexic) has humongous amounts of magical strength and potential, but every time he tries to cast a spell, his cacography gets in the way. This has caused him to remain an apprentice long after the time he should have been a full mage. Nicodemus has a birthmark which may mark him as the central figure in a prophecy about the way the world is saved from destruction. But whatever-- all Nicodemus wants is to keep his head down, his nose clean, and to attain the status of mage. Intrigue, bloodshed and chaos ensue.

There is a wealth of medical detail in the book, due to the way the magic system is constructed. Sadly, I found the extra medical detail to be the least appealing thing in the book**, with one exception...

...Language Prime. The idea here is brilliant, and for those of you who choose to read SPELLWRIGHT, I will gladly send you a jar of apple butter or plum preserves if you figure it out before I did (the second mention of the particular runes in the book).

The characters are well drawn-- Nicodemus is a bit self-absorbed, as might be expected of a young man-- and the worldbuilding is, as mentioned above, pretty awesome. The narrative, as mentioned above, slows in several places, as is common for a first novel-- there were two or three expository scenes that I wasn't sure advanced the plot at all, and there was one scene in which two characters held an extended conversation whose 'cover story' I found flimsy. And while the plot is good, at the end of the book, one particular character does a complete about-face which I find to be both too convenient in advancing the plot and inconsistent with the character's personality.

But really, these quibbles are far and few between, and the brilliance of the magic system-- as well as the tone of the narrative-- make me very glad I read this book. Will I buy the sequel? Yes.

...after all, med school ain't cheap. And people who can write narrative like this author are rare in any field.

Overall, recommended.



*The author is what was referred to as a 'bent arrow' at TOSUCOMPH (back in my day, at least)-- a 'straight arrow' being someone who goes from high school to college to med school without any breaks or real contact with the world. Which makes for a great author bio.


**If magical runes are generated by muscle movement, why do they need to study anatomy? My quadriceps move whether I know their name or not. Same for my soleus, gastrocs, rectus abdomini... And what happens if a mage develops a motor tic?

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