This novel is about a boy who discovers he has magical powers and is taken to a school for the gifted. It is a testament to Cypert’s world-building that I did not think of the comparison to Harry Potter until I was over three-quarters of the way through the book.
This is the first volume of the Scapemaker series. The story opens with a series of unusual events which reveal that Matthew Namely has the power to enter the dream world. His powers can be dangerous, to both himself and others, so he is enrolled in Scapemaker, one of a several schools for those capable of interacting with dreams. While he is still attempting to come to terms with another world parallel to the mundane his best friend is killed and his father left in a coma. When his father is blamed for murder and the loss of a mystical artefact, Matthew sets out to prove him innocent.
The magical system in this book is interesting and internally consistent, and is placed within a believable adaptation of the modern world; while there are fantastical elements such as gremlins and dragons, they are only part of magical society, and there are sound reasons for them not to interact with the mundane world.
The plot is engaging with a good balance of serious magical threats and mundane teenage problems. It advances at a good pace without seeming rushed.
The characterisation is mixed. Most of the main characters have distinct believable personalities; the two potential love interests are particularly well realised, and make full use of the potential of a world in which a person’s physical appearance can vary between the mundane and dream worlds. However, Cypert often tells the reader what a character is like instead of letting their dialogue and actions show their character. Combined with heavy use of adjectives and complex speech verbs, this counteracts the effect of otherwise solid work.
The point of view is often centred on Matthew but sometimes strays between several other characters within the same scene, or adopts an entirely external view. In some scenes the narrator is omniscient, and some early scenes use divine irony, whereas in others even a character’s words are hidden from the narrator. Along with the didactic style of the writing this often makes Cypert’s choice to share information or not very obvious to the detriment of immersion.
As an additional consideration for British English speakers, these stylistic issues made the use of American English more than usually noticeable.
Overall I enjoyed this novel, and will probably read the rest of the series. However, the ideas were let down by a lack of editing.
I received a free copy of this book from the author.