Title: The Other Magic
Author: Derrick Smythe
Genre: YA / Epic Fantasy
This novel is the first in a fantasy series that promises to explore magic and religious devotion while taking readers on a grand, mysterious adventure.
Each of the three main characters represents a different race. Kibure is a slave with access to forbidden magic he can’t understand or control while Aynward is a spoiled prince who was sent overseas to study at a university where, hopefully, he can’t continue to embarrass the royal family. Meanwhile, Sindri, a disgraced priestess, is hired by Kibure’s master to help successfully control him, but she has other plans for the young man…if she can get him away from the empire, where both of them are wanted by the dangerous, fanatical God-king and his priests.
The descriptions throughout the story are excellent, easily helping readers picture the scenes and understand how the characters are viewing the settings while showing the variety of a fictional world. The narration is equally thorough but slow, at times, and the story breaks from one character to the other at what can seem like the worst possible moment, where even a few more sentences would provide the resolution needed to understand the new developments occurring.
There are many moments of fun as Aynward navigates the university with entrance exams, classes he can’t find, and university politics complicating his life, and while these scenes can feel superfluous to the overall plot, they provide the heart of the coming-of-age story at the center of this book, helping vary the mood with humor and effective arrogance while still showing the man Aynward could be if he only grows up a little.
Some more editing polish would help in places, as there are moments when words are missing, but overall, the story feels very complete, despite being the first of a series. There are times when one wonders if the characters would truly progress as far in their growth as they do, but for the most part, the pacing is charted in a way that makes it believable and touching.
The characters themselves come off as realistic, though the reader is told how they feel rather than shown it through direct thoughts or action alone, to where it seems that a narrator who helps orient readers geographically and narratively might serve the story better.
And there are side characters who feel a bit underdeveloped, like Aynward’s aunt and guardian or Kibure’s fellow slaves and master, and in a story this long, one might expect more focus and variety here. Still, the depiction of Grobennar, the God-king’s most important priest, is a beautiful execution, avoiding caricature and creating a believable character who is troublesome and harmful while still being likable, armed with pure intentions and a dangerous devotion.
The plot is imaginative and intriguing, and the story is nicely blended with sorrow and humor. It effectively spans a diverse fantasy world while presenting a thoughtful, intricate story. Rich in world-building and believable characters, this novel will appeal to those who like a long book that kicks off a series where characters change, grow, and develop magic powers—and where evil isn’t always wicked.
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