Tag Archives: squirrel cat

Review of KINDLE Ebook Queenslayer – Book 5 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell #Brainfluffbookreview #Queenslayerbookreview

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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series to date – see my review of Spellslinger here, so was delighted to discover that the fifth book was already out – and even more delighted when Himself made me a present of it…

BLURB: Kellen and Reichis have just finished fighting a duel in the desert when Kellen inadvertently smears blood on the Daroman flag – an act of treason for which the Marshals have no choice but to arrest him. Just before he’s put before the Queen to be executed, Kellen is given a strange piece of advice from one of his fellow prisoners: kill the Queen and he’ll be given clemency by those who take power. But when Kellen comes face-to-face with the eleven year-old monarch, he realises she’s vastly smarter than he expected – and in a great deal more danger.

I settled back into this one with joyous expectation as Kellen was every bit as sneakily desperate and Reichis as snarkily bloodthirsty as before. Kellen is now confronted with court politics and to be honest – he’s way outside his comfort zone. As he tries to keep himself, his squirrel cat and a number of other random folks alive, he finds himself up against all sorts of foes. Including his sister… By now, there is a hefty backstory that has built up and my firm advice is not to jump into this series midway, but go back to the beginning and savour all the magical madness and mayhem from the first book, Spellslinger.

Kellen now has a major mission – he is trying to find a cure for the magical affliction that is dogging his steps and will leave him dying horribly. So he views all the court politics with a certain amount of detachment, until he’s forced to get involved or watch an innocent be killed… I followed the twisting plot with great enjoyment, until about two-thirds of the way through the book there was a certain incident involving a mage, poor old Kellen and a serving girl. I found it very shocking – as did he, so I expected it to be a major gamechanger. It wasn’t – not really, given that while he was shaken and talked about it changing everything, that was as far as it got.

The trouble was, this was just such a major issue that all the ongoing problems Kellen was facing shrank in the face of it and when yet the next round of survival shenanigans kicked off, I found I was a lot less involved.
To be honest, I’m not sure whether it’s me, or if the pacing and narrative arc is really compromised, but while I didn’t dislike what came next, I found I was a lot more emotionally detached from the rest of the story. It was wound up with de Castell’s usual flourish and I definitely want to the read the final instalment, but I think this book is the weakest of the series so far.

It says a lot for the overall quality of the Spellslinger series that this book still earns a reasonable score. The series is recommended for fans of adventure fantasy featuring an accident-prone protagonist and regular dollops of humour.
7/10

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Soulbinder Book 4 in the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell #Brainfluffbookreview #Soulbinderbookreview

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The fourth book in the page-turning SPELLSLINGER fantasy series. Perfect for fans of The Dark Tower, Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy, Terry Pratchett, Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher.

And that’s the blurb – well, you can’t fault the publisher for giving away any crucial plotpoints here, can you? I’m interested in the line-up of authors that are compared to de Castell, because they all have initially humorous, often quite bouncy stories that steadily get darker and grimmer as the series wears on. Up to this point, the Spellsinger series kept the humour going, mostly provided by that pesky squirrel cat. But while Kellen’s caustic comments still are evident during Soulbinder – this is the book where the stakes are upped even further, there is even more mayhem, bloodshed and emotion. And yet, right at the end, back comes the humour, which I often loathe in TV series, but this time around, breathless and a tad hollowed out by all the excitement and the loss of characters I’ve grown fond of – something de Castell regularly does – it was a huge relief.

In this slice of the adventure, we learn more about the shadowblack – the disease that has marked Kellen and forced him to be outcast as the black markings around his eye will eventually cause him to be possessed by a terrible demon and start killing all those around him. The magical society he is born into, the Jan’Tep, abhor and fear all those with shadowblack, regarding them as monsters and mages can earn respect by tracking and killing those with a bounty on their head. I appreciated learning more about exactly what others infected by shadowblack feel about their affliction as Kellen encounters those like himself.

The action builds to a really exciting climax and the pages flipped past far too quickly as I couldn’t put this one down – de Castell has a knack of leading us from one engrossing adventure to another, without losing any depth in the characterisation or allowing the pacing to become too repetitive, which is harder to do than he makes it look.

And despite reading two books in this series within a week of each other – see my review of Charmcaster – I didn’t find the experience diminished my enjoyment of Soulbinder, which is a real testament to the writing skill of de Castell, who goes on delivering humour, shocks and plot-twists throughout this engrossing series. Highly recommended for fans of adventure fantasy featuring cool magical systems.
9/10

Review of Kindle EBOOK Charmcaster – Book 3 in the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell #Brainfluffbookreview #Charmcasterbookreview

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series – see my reviews of Spellslinger and Shadowblack – so I was a bit startled on learning that not only had Charmcaster been out for a while, but Soulbinder had also just been released. This is a series I didn’t want to slide away from me, so I got hold of Charmcaster with a view of taking it away on my writing retreat…

‘I was getting almost as good at running away from enemies as I was at making them in the first place. Turns out, I wasn’t running nearly fast enough.’ Kellen has begun to master his spellslinging and the Argosi tricks for staying alive, and he and Reichis have found a career that suits them both: taking down mercenary mages who make people’s lives miserable. But Ferius is concerned that Kellen is courting disaster . . .

Firstly, I want to congratulate Hot Key Books for keeping the blurb suitably concise – it’s such a refreshing change not to have to tweak/shorten it to avoid spoiling the book for prospective readers.

Next, my firm recommendation is to those of you who may have picked up this one without reading the other two books first – don’t go any further. Get hold of the previous two in the series. While I’m sure you could get the gist of what’s going on, this delightful, quirky fantasy adventure is far too good to miss.

As for Kellen, his squirrel cat companion Reichis, and Ferius, his Argosi mentor – they are once more on the track of the scumbags who have been inserting a parasitic worm into youngsters in order to control them. What I really have enjoyed about this series is that while Kellen is undoubtedly brave, he is regularly outmatched. And he does have a habit of rushing to the rescue of those he sees as innocent victims without necessarily working out whether his chances of prevailing are realistic. It doesn’t help that his squirrel cat is constantly goading him to take on any assailant in the hopes that he’ll be able to snack on another juicy eyeball… The humour in this series works as a nice counterpoint to the emotion also evident – Kellen wears his heart on his sleeve and the stakes are invariably as high as they can get, given he is tangling with some seriously unpleasant people. In other hands, this series could have been a constant, gritted struggle for survival – which is exactly what happens, but de Castell ensures the pacey writing and horrible situations Kellen finds himself in are leavened by the humour, mostly provided by the squirrel cat and his edgy relationship with his human companion.

I also very much appreciated the further insights into Ferius, Kellen’s mysterious mentor, and what drives her as I’ve found her cryptic utterances somewhat annoying. But this is the book where I bonded with her, while holding my breath. This author isn’t afraid to kill off major characters when it suits him.

Overall, this was an engaging read and worth addition to what is becoming a cracking series and highly recommended for fans of fantasy adventures.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Shadowblack – Book 2 of the Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell

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I loved the first book in this series, Spellslinger – see my review here. So it was a no-brainer that when I saw this offering on Netgalley I would request it and was delighted to be approved.

It’s a few months since Kellen left his people behind. Now aged sixteen, Kellen is an outlaw, relying on his wits to keep him alive in the land of the Seven Sands. He misses home, he misses family and more than anything, he misses Nephenia, the girl he left behind. And when someone else turns up unexpectedly who carries a secret that’s all too familiar to Kellen. Kellen and Ferius resolve to help – but the stakes are far higher than they realise…

This one is such fun. While I had enjoyed the first book, this one is tighter in focus with a stronger, more coherent storyline. And of course Reiches, the incorrigible squirrel cat is back, giving us some much-needed light relief as the storyline becomes a whole lot darker. I love the relationship between Kellen and Reiches – it’s not remotely sentimental and although there is plenty of humour, it is always edged with the prickly sensibilities of the squirrel cat, which is convinced he is superior to all the pesky humans around him.

Once again, Kellen’s first person narrative pings off the page and immediately drew me into the story. While you don’t need the first book to appreciate this one, I would recommend it as having more Spellslinger goodness in your life can never be a bad thing. What I really appreciated is that in this slice of the adventure, we get to discover more about Ferius, the Argosi who inexplicably turns up in the first book. I thoroughly enjoyed her intervention during Spellslinger but felt a little unsettled that by the end, we still don’t know all that much about her motivation and why she sees fit to get involved in Kellen’s life. As Ferius and Kellen encounter another Argosi, we learn a lot more about how they operate and get a further insight into what makes Ferius tick – particularly when we see her vulnerable and unable to fight back.

The other highlight in this story is the addition of a really nasty antagonist. His manner of attack is chilling and left me wriggling with disgust – eww. We get to know him well enough that we completely understand his motives even though the people behind his horrible scheme remain disturbingly shadowy – until the end. Although I already knew that de Castell isn’t afraid to kill off characters, I was shocked at the death which certainly upped the stakes and injected a real sense of menace.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and it is highly recommended for fans of entertaining fantasy adventure. While I obtained the arc of Shadowblack from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10