by Blake Charlton
Edited by James Frenkel
Cover Artist: Todd Lockwood
Review by Mel Jacob
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765317278
Date: 16 February 2010 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Blake Charlton creates an interesting fantasy adventure in his debut novel Spellwright. While he uses many traditional fantasy types and pits good against evil, he develops a magic system sure to surprise and delight readers. Sorcerers use language, grammar, and syntax to create spells. Esoteric languages are used for the most powerful spells. These require knowledge and physical dexterity to cast.
His hero Nicodemus, a young apprentice wizard, has one fatal flaw. When he touches a spell, it unravels and accumulates spelling errors. He is a dreaded cacographer, and only his mentor, the wizard Shannon believes in him. Shannon has gathered all such failed young would-be wizards under his wing to research their abilities.
Strange deaths occur in Starhaven, the wizard's enclave where Shannon and Nicodemus reside. Those wizards sent to investigate suspect Shannon and Nicodemus. They must flee for their lives as more deaths ensue. They discover an ancient evil seeks to take over the world and only they stand between it, its minions, and the world.
Curses, old and new, cloud their escape. They acquire strange allies, but others die in the enemy's quest to find Nicodemus. In addition, Nicodemus and Shannon must decide whom they can trust. Giving up means death for them and may destroy the world.
Nicodemus and Shannon are appealing characters and the reader roots for them. Understanding the magic system will test the patience of some, but makes for an interesting change. Charlton uses his background as a dyslexic to illuminate his writing and the problems Nicodemus faces. He has a forthcoming second volume, Spellbound, continuing the story of Nicodemus and his allies.