SPFBO Status: Semifinalist
Medium: ebook (328 pages in print)
Overview (No Spoilers):
For those of us who’ve been Groundhog Day-ing the past 7 months, I thought I’d celebrate the fact that we’ve made it to October! The leaves are changing, night is creeping in earlier as the days get shorter, and the spooky season is upon us. There will even be a Blue Moon for the werewolves in your life to howl at on Halloween – sure, that just means it’s the second full moon of the month, but it’s still rare and feels particularly festive. So, now would be a good time to carve your favorite Tim Burton characters into pumpkins while songs from your Monster Mash playlist fill the air. And be sure to stock up on all the necessary ingredients for tasty, seasonally-inspired treats to sink your teeth into, such as mummy-wrapped brie, boo-scotti, and skeleton crudité. As for me, I’ll just be over here, ready to pour a glass of Leelanau’s Witches Brew and primed to press play for another viewing of Hocus Pocus, as is tradition.
Given my appreciation for the spooktacular, it should come as no surprise that I’m fond of tales which incorporate a multitude of supernatural species, and Magister’s Bane does not disappoint in this regard. This novel is the first in the Call of the Elements series by Yvette Bostic and was released in August 2019. Told from a first-person perspective, this urban fantasy centers on AJ, a young woman living in Vegas who’s experienced all of the hardships associated with a facial disfigurement that makes finding friends and steady employment difficult. So, imagine her surprise when a seemingly routine job interview lands her in the middle of a conflict between supernatural parties that she never even knew existed. Having been thrust into circumstances beyond her control that leave her wondering who to trust, AJ explores this new world with two enigmatic individuals at her side for guidance and support. She uncovers information about her past, tries to make sense of her role in present events, and realizes that her future is nothing like she’d expected.
It’s been a while since I’ve been able to lose myself in a book, what with all that’s going on in the world, so I’m grateful to Bostic for submitting this story to the SPFBO competition. Each chapter brings about some new danger or experience, which helped to push the story forward at a fast pace, making it easy to keep me engaged. This is a tale that benefits from the fact that the reader is learning about all of the rules of this hidden world and its inhabitants at the same time as the main character. However, it did seem at times like AJ asks many of the same questions that I had (and some that I hadn’t come up with yet), dulling the suspense to an extent. Parts of the plot will feel familiar as a result of the supernatural nature of it, but I think that the magical system used by the mages stands out. I really enjoyed learning about it, especially considering how personal the experience seems to be for AJ compared to others.
On the whole, I found AJ to be relatable, with the frustrations of this new normal putting her insecurities on full display. I was also pleased with the character development of the other leads, who grew on me after I learned more about their backstories. However, there are secondary characters which seem to disappear shortly after being introduced, leaving them more one-dimensional and underutilized in this book. In the same vein, other magical societies are mentioned but not incorporated in this storyline, so I would be interested to see how this world expands in the future. You’ll find elements of action, suspense, and a little romance mixed into this novel. The writing style is easy to follow, with some errors (homonyms, missing words, etc.) spaced throughout. Though not perfect, Bostic’s storytelling kept me flying through the pages. And given how the book ends, it’s a good thing that the next few books in the series are already available!
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound!):
- As a veiled mage, how is AJ’s secret discovered by the staff at The Sanguis Casino? Do they unearth her magical heritage during her background check? And if they had planned to abduct her, why wait an extra day to do it? If she hadn’t escaped, how would they have dealt with her binding? Would turning her into a vampire have dissolved it?
- In describing the looming conflict between vampires and the supernatural community, Kellan mentions that ‘several times throughout history, one or more of the supernatural families decided it was a good idea to reveal themselves to humans. It never works out well.’ What are examples of this?
- Did someone tell the Magister that AJ died after giving birth, or had the Magister asked someone to kill AJ and then they didn’t follow through? Who kept binding AJ’s magic? Was it Sharon? What is she up to while AJ is off ‘adventuring’? Is she worried about AJ’s absence?
- I was surprised how Kellen is able to pause the removal of AJ’s binding while at the Magister’s palace. That seems like the kind of task where once started, you have to finish it or accept the consequences… Also, it’s interesting how the removal process mimics using a defibrillator (but with the pads on the wrong sides of the body).
- Mages attuned to only one element need to partner with another to balance their magic or slowly go insane. For those already falling apart, can the effects of instability be reversed once a partner is found, or would the mental decline just stop and not get any worse?
- If an element rejects someone because of their personality traits, is this rebuff permanent? Alternatively, can elements decide later on to abandon their mage (and not only when a mage becomes one of the undead)? Is it the slow abandonment that drives a mage insane?
- Will Kate find someone to partner with? Guess it’s time to set up a website for meeting ‘single, single mages’ (i.e., the partnerless attuned with only one element)!
- Göksu explains how partnerships between dual mages allow each to converse with their elements. What conversations has Kellen had with earth and fire since partnering with AJ? If Kellan and AJ consciously uncouple, will they still be able to talk to their elements? As a single mage, why was Logan able to talk with his element once? What did they discuss?
- It’s interesting that whoever holds Sparky projects their feelings onto their partner. Kellan tends to offer Sparky to AJ ‘so you’ll have a break from me’, but is it ever so he can mask his backstabbing, self-indulgent nature? Who has Sparky at the end of the book?
- What would Kellen have done to overthrow the Magister if they hadn’t found AJ? What was the original plan? Also, Kellen says that he didn’t include Kate in any of his more nefarious plans, is that true? Or did he not want AJ to ask her about them because Kate’s not as good at hiding her true emotions?
- It didn’t get to that point, but would AJ’s mother have been able to compel AJ to do something? Or would it have been a non-issue since they both possess that power? What if they try to compel the same person to do different things? Would that person heed whomever spoke last?
- Do all royal blood lines have special powers, like how AJ can command people to do things? Is Kellen’s ancestry why he could unbind AJ’s magic? Does he have another special power since both of his parents are descended from royalty?
- In the final showdown, the Magister expresses that ‘there cannot be two magisters, and I’ll not take a back seat to that half-breed.’ Does the Magister know that AJ’s life is tied to Logan’s? Is that what makes her a ‘half-breed’? Or is it referencing AJ’s as-yet-unidentified father?
- As a cross between mage and shifter, is Mr. Smith attuned to an element? How does one become a shifter? Is it purely hereditary?
- Re: Logan saving AJ from turning into a vampire. Unless fangs are like straws straight to one’s veins, wouldn’t the blood from Logan to replace AJ’s own blood loss go straight to her stomach?
- If Logan and AJ’s lives are bound to each other, are they both at the mercy of AJ’s mortality? Or did AJ accidently find a way to immortality through Logan while maintaining her connection to the elements, the very thing that her mother wanted? Will they meet others in a similar situation? How will mages from organizations outside of North America play a role in future books?
Dais: a raised platform (as in a hall or large room)
Ennui: a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction
Sallow: of a grayish greenish yellow color
Whelp: any of the young of various carnivorous mammals and especially of the dog