Review Blog

Jul 21 2020

Spellhacker by M.K. England

cover image

Harper Teen, 2020. ISBN: 9780062657701. 402p.
(Age: 14+) Fans of high fantasy thrillers will think they have died and gone to heaven - or at least Kyrkarta. The action starts almost immediately with an earthquake. Brave spell weavers and tech witches spontaneously assemble in the street to minimise the damage and it's wickedly intense.
Kyrkarta has a history of such disasters - the last quake unleashed something. Maz or magic used to be plentiful, but since the earthquakes released the spellplague killing thousands, Maz is no longer common. Maz takes many forms and a Periodic Table of Maz prefaces Chapter One. We aren't given the atomic weights so the list is basically a ready reference or glossary of terms. There are three categories of Maz strains - Core, Perceptual and Augmenting. Categorised under these strains are the 14 types of Spells. Wataz Maz is "Core" and produces water and flowing effects, while Magnaz is used for amplification or "Augmenting".
Maz has become so expensive that Diz and her three friends created their own black market for Maz - illegally siphoning it off and selling it. Ania is a Techwitch, Remi a Spellweaver and Jaesin, Diz's "ex", is a Mundie like Diz. They've planned one last heist, but they become mixed up in a dangerous conspiracy.
Diz's love interest, Remi, is referred to in gender-neutral pronouns providing us with recognisable reference points, welcomed because the level of fantasy is difficult to delve into at first. Thanks to the group of L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. teens who are very likeable, sarcastic and flirty, the appeal of Spellhacker is characterisation in addition to the novelty, which breaks with traditional expectations of books about magic. If you like Sci-Fi mixed with fantasy and action, you'll get more than you can handle in the future realm of Kyrkarta. Spellhacker is available as a downloadable audio. Themes: High fantasy. Magic.
Deborah Robins

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