This coming of age story balances realism and escapism, to build characters who undertake heroic quests without sacrificing a sense that the reader would act as they do if placed in their circumstances.
Fifteen-year-old Traphis is a magic user, like his father; however, his mother has forbidden him to learn magic. Having found his father’s books and staff, he sets out to learn in secret. However, a youthful feud with the mayor’s son not only reveals his power to the Wizard’s Collective but also exposes him to the darkest of threats.
The story advances with at a swift pace. Although there are some diversions into exposition, the majority of the world is revealed to the reader by deduction. Those longer expositions that do occur are usually integrated naturally into conversation, so do not break the flow of the story.
The protagonists and many main characters are children, mostly teenagers. Each of them has a unique personality – yet shares the characteristics of self-interest and self-doubt common to puberty – giving their actions a feeling of being real people who have power rather than of magicians who are young. The discovery that the opposite sex are both addictive and confusing is especially well handled. While the older characters actions are reasonable when explained, they receive less exposition, adding to the sense that the protagonists are burdened with an immature understanding of human motivations.
Maxon has created two magical systems, one granting the user great power over an element and the other permitting control of any element but with less power. Although there is an underlying moral aspect to the choice of which system a magician uses, Maxon does not seek to hammer this home, relying on the contrast between high power and broad application to create conflict.
The plot is the classic fantasy narrative of a young farm-boy who becomes critical to defeating great evil; however, the characterisation and world-building make this more than a collection of stale tropes.
I enjoyed this book. I would recommend it to readers looking for an engaging mid-length fantasy novel.