Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell is a new novel on the YA fantasy scene which is the first of what looks to be a most promising series of books.

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Kellen is a young man who is about to reach is sixteenth birthday. In the world in which he lives, all young people of his age are tested on their birthday with regard to their magical skills. If they pass a series of tests they become the ruling class, the powerful elite. If they don’t they are shunned from society and made to serve those in power, even those in their own families.

Kellen has a problem. His magic, which should have been sparking into life over the last few years and reaching its peak of power, is actually fading and he is about to become an outcast in his own life. To make things worse, his younger sister looks as if she will be one of the most powerful mages his people have ever known.

The book opens with Kellen about to embark on a magical duel with one of his worst enemies. Kellen thinks he can win the day by sheer cunning alone, but two things conspire against him, his sister and the arrival of a mysterious stranger, an outlaw who doesn’t play by the rules, doesn’t worship magic and who might just show Kellen a different way to be.

This is a great fantasy novel that is combined beautifully with a coming of age novel. It’s funny, gripping and in parts handles the emotional journey Kellen is on sensitively. It balances all the elements of the disparate genres it pulls from very well, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was well paced, well written and the characters were fleshed out nicely. The book ends satisfactorily in terms of the initial plot lines, but is open enough to allow for more volumes to be written and I believe the second volume will be out in the autumn of this year. I will be looking for it.

A good, solid read for children aged 10 and up, and adults who like fresh voices in fantasy fiction.

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