The Other Magic starts out as three stories that spiral around each other… Grobennar is a high priest who finds himself losing his power to a rival and only the retrieval of a magical boy might win back the favor of the his boss. Kibure is that young slave who discovers a raw magic inside of himself, but the gift brings unwanted attention, especially from the brutal God-king. And then there’s Aynward: an arrogant young man of royal decent who is shipped off to a distant city for schooling. Far enough away that he can’t embarrass himself or his family. Two young men, one running for his life and the other just trying to make the most of his dismissal. And a middle-aged man grasping to maintain his station. This is the story that Smythe leads us on. Singular threads that eventually wind together in an inventive and daring way.
My favorite thing about this book is the characters. I felt a good connection with them early on as I found multiple chances to see the two young men as foils to each other. Rich vs poor, royalty vs slave, naive vs worldly, arrogant vs benevolent. They play so well against each other. Smythe uses actions to drive his characterization… vivid scenes that really open the readers to the type of characters we’re dealing with.
I also really liked the magic system. The educated clerics are the only people in the realm who are deemed worth of using any type of magic. And they can sense when others are using it so they can hunt them down and use them as sacrifices for the God-king. The magic has varied uses… commune with animals, fight with energy blasts, probe people’s minds to see their memories, among many others. There’s a wide range of skills that Smythe deftly describes.
My criticisms of the book is twofold. I found some fault in the shortish chapters. I find this length of chapters more used in thrillers and I felt like it didn’t match this type of story. I also thought the endings of the chapters were uneven, some would be cliffhangers and others would end with less of a punch. While I did like the slow burn of the greater arc of the book, I think it took a bit too long for the threads of the story to meet.
The Other Magic is a worthy read in the epic fantasy genre. Smythe takes three very different characters and puts them in a world where politics, social class, and “magicism” force them into the same arena. Heart-felt in places and with well-drawn action sequences, this book is fun and memorable.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Thank you to the author for an advanced copy for review.
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