A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Violence & Scariness
Children are slowly and miserably starved to death if they can't master a magic spell. An act of arson, references to beatings and killings, child abuse, a boy wishes to kill his cruel father.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A kiss, a reference to masturbation, mention of a penis, a girl wishes to make love.
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Frequent use of "s--t," occasional "f--k."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that, unusually for a fantasy, there is a fair amount of swearing, mostly unnecessary, and some mild sexual references. Also, the mistreatment of the boys in training to be wizards is disturbing.
Is It Any Good?
This is not your typical fantasy -- in fact, it may be unlike anything you have ever read. It's a very dark vision of a world where magic is just beginning to be resurrected after being suppressed and nearly lost for many years. The author eschews nearly all the usual trappings of the genre. There are no battles of good against evil -- actually, there's precious little of either commodity to be found, and no battles at all. In fact, there's very little action of any kind -- just grinding cruelty and joyless acquisition of knowledge and skills. Even the use of magic is minimal. Yet the book is utterly engrossing.
The resurrection process is not fun for anyone. In the Sadima story, it involves living in secret and enduring poverty, fear, and Somiss' borderline insanity to find clues hidden in old nonsense songs. In Hahp's story, it's literally do or die -- figure out the magic yourself, or die trying. No cute Potions lessons with grumpy teachers, just raw survival. The ending is less a cliffhanger than just a stop in the middle of the story. By that time, most readers will be so involved that they will be clamoring for the next installment in this grimly cerebral, National Book Award-nominated new series.
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Our Editors Recommend
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