I have been looking forward to Caster for months now. I know I say this about a lot of books. But I am a huge fan of Elsie Chapman and even was able to interview her! And with the promise of a magical underground tournament, I was hooked!!
Aza Wu knows that real magic is dangerous and illegal. After all, casting killed her sister, Shire. As with all magic, everything comes at a price. For Aza, it feels like everything in her life has some kind of cost attached to it. Her sister had been casting for money to pay off Saint Willow, the gang leader that oversees her sector of Lotusland. If you want to operate a business there, you have to pay your tribute. And now with Shire dead, Aza must step in to save the legacy of Wu Teas, the teahouse that has been in her family for centuries.
When Aza comes across a secret invitation, she decides she doesn’t have much else to lose. She quickly realizes that she’s entered herself into an underground casting tournament, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Real magic, real consequences. As she competes, Aza fights for her life against some very strong and devious competitors.
When the facts about Shire’s death don’t add up, the police start to investigate. When the tributes to Saint Willow aren’t paid, the gang comes to collect. When Aza is caught sneaking around with fresh casting wounds, her parents are alarmed. As Aza’s dangerous web of lies continues to grow, she is caught between trying to find a way out and trapping herself permanently.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
While you can get swept away with the magic of Caster, what sticks with you after the last page is Aza – her grief and her responsibility. A year after the death of her sister, Aza is no closer to figuring out what really happened to her sister, nor is her family fully recovered financially. What begins with a plot to save her family while the clock ticks down, becomes something even more – a hint of revenge, of conspiracy, and sacrifice.
Urban Fantasy and the Cost of Magic
Before I talk about how much I love Aza, I want to geek out a little. What a magical world. It’s urban fantasy at it’s best. Magic extracts not only a steep price on our bodies, but on the world around us. In Caster, our magic has earth shattering consequences – literally. Not only that, but our magic has the ability to kill us.
I am obsessed with fantasy books which illustrate the costs of magic. And Chapman just takes it further, tying our quest for power, for what lies at our fingertips, to the deteriorating environment around us. There is a precious scale for the balance of magic and power, display and consumption.
Grief, Family, and Sacrifice
Aza finds herself in a web of deception and lies, entanglement and protection, amidst a tournament with stakes higher than we know. With the intoxicating draw of magic, we are asked whether we are using magic, or whether it’s using us? In many ways, Aza’s journey is relatable because of the hurdles thrown at her and her commitment to her family. What will we lose to protect what we have?
When we are filled with a wanting, a thirst that leaves us aching at night. A loss that fills our heart until it runs over. The feeling of loss and grief compounded and multiplied. The phantom pains plaguing us as we feel it brush against our fingertips.