Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Review: Spellwright by Blake Charlton

Title: Spellwright
Author: Blake Charlton
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: HarperVoyager (twitter)
Publishing Date: 27 May 2010
Paperback: 400 pages
Series: The first book of The Spellwright Trilogy. The second book is called Spellbound and the third book's working title is Disjunction.


At twenty-five, Nicodemus Weal is old for an apprentice and he is far from being the best student Starhaven has ever seen. He isn't particularly good at magic because he is a cacographer who misspells magical texts simply by touching them.

The peaceful lives of Starhaven's inhabitants take an unusual turn when the Magistra Nora Finn, Dean of the Drum Tower, is murdered on the Spindle Bridge by a strange human-like creature. And this puts a great burden on Nicodemus' shoulders, a burden that he's not aware of yet.

Don’t Judge A Book By It But...

In my opinion, Spellwright is one of those exceptional books with a nicer looking US cover. Furthermore, after reading the book, I really appreciate some the details of the US cover art: The moons, the bridges and the towers on the background, the gargoyle looking over Nicodemus' shoulder, the magic book. The UK cover unfortunately doesn't have any that subtlety. However it can also be said that the US cover is more YA-looking.


In 1621, in The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton stated: "A blow with a word strikes deeper than a blow with a sword". We are all familiar with this metaphor or with a similar one. But in The Spellwright Trilogy, Blake Charlton has created a world where words could literally be deadlier than swords.

In his fantasy debut, Charlton masterfully mixes his experience of childhood struggle with dyslexia, his medical background and some software programming knowledge to create one of the most imaginative magic systems I've ever read. As the story progresses, the reader faces more and more clues about how Charlton's background has inspired him in creating some very interesting concepts that make his system unique.

Additionally, the magic system that Charlton tells the reader about in his book is truly multi-dimensional. Sometimes Charlton's spells have a texture like coarse, stiff cloth. Sometimes their soft, muddy texture makes them safe to handle. And another time, a certain spell quickly flicked into the air, careens someone else's and knocks both spells out of existence with a wet pop. That kind of detail creates a heightened sense of realism in the reader's mind allowing her to connect with the story effortlessly.

Furthermore, I was delighted to see that the author uses gargoyles as magical constructs, which are animated beings composed of magical language, in Spellwright. I've always had a penchant for gargoyles and this was another satisfactory touch for me.

The blurb may give the impression that Spellwright contains some fantasy clichés but Charlton twists his story so well that the reader encounters a lot of surprises throughout the book. Along the way, the reader also meets some very vibrant characters who complement the plot beautifully.

Last but not least, a quick word about the fine-looking map Spellwright contains. I absolutely appreciate seeing a high-quality map at the beginning of a fantasy book. Hats off!

Spellwright is without a doubt a very strong fantasy debut from Blake Charlton. I was easily won over by his beautiful style, his colourful characters and his unique magical system. When I turned the last page of Spellwright, I was left with wanting more. I'm looking forward to the second instalment of The Spellwright Trilogy. I am going to be a very happy man when I get the opportunity to read Spellbound.

Rating: 9/10


"Splattering splud!" - Simple John


  1. I really like the sound of Spellwright! I had to add it on my Goodreads wishlist after reading your review :)

  2. Just waiting for the book to arrive in the mail.