Those familiar with Heidi Lyn Burke’s writings know that she is the female Brandon Sanderson of the indie publishing world. Like him, she has a gift for crafting deep and detailed storyworlds with brilliant magic systems. Fortunately for her fans, her books are released more quickly than Sanderson’s. Also, they’re funnier. (Sorry, Brandon.)
The excellent Spellsmith and Carver series delivers everything Burke’s readers have come to expect from her books, and more besides. I’m a little late to the party on this series due to my long TBR, so I’ve only read Book 1 so far. It left me eager for the second and apprehensive of the third, as I’m already not looking forward to saying goodbye to these characters.
Magicians’ Rivalry takes place on the outskirts of a town called Mountain’s Foot. Not many details about the larger world are given in the text, but I got an alternate 1890’s New England vibe from it. (I may be completely off base with that comparison, however.) There are steampunk elements in the form of things like trains and a mechanical fox, though the book is too unique to be filed strictly in the steampunk genre. The magic in this reality comes from Fey energies leaking in from a different world, and is controlled via symbols written on tablets of wax, paper, or wood. There’s a fascinating, almost mathematical tangent to the magic system that sets it apart from all others I’ve encountered in fantasy.
It isn’t just the excellent world-building that makes this book so captivating; it’s the characters as well. Auric Spellsmith returns from his studies at the Magicians’ Academy to find that his father has taken on an apprentice named Jericho Carver in his absence. Even worse, Jericho has become very close to Auric’s sister, Rill. As such, Auric is pre-disposed not to like the interloper—and Jericho’s not too fond of him, either. But when a sudden crisis strikes, Auric and Jericho are forced to work together despite their mutual hostility. Startling family secrets come to light as the story builds to a gripping climax.
All the characters are distinct and engaging, but it’s the snarky dynamic between Auric and Jericho that really steals the show here, as their initial dislike for each other slowly (and humorously) shifts to a grudging respect. Their banter made me laugh out loud more than once. Add to that the fascinating world, the undercurrent of suspense, and the shocking plot twists, and you’ve got a book that you will have a very hard time putting down. I don’t have anything negative to say about it besides the fact that I wanted more once I was finished—and there already is more, so I have no reason to complain. Yet. If somebody dies in Books 2 or 3, then I will have a problem.
The Spellsmith and Carver books should definitely be on your TBR, at the top or at least near the top. It’s a sheer pleasure to read indie fantasy with this level of quality and fun.
Spellsmith and Carver: Magicians’ Rivalry is available to purchase on Amazon, along with the second and third books in the trilogy (which I’ll be reviewing here as well, in time). Be sure to check out Heidi’s website, where you can find out more about all her wonderful books.